When elders are in the classrooms, kids are more focused and more respectful. Elders are active. And the oldest and youngest members of the community form relationships.
That’s what schools across the state have learned from RurAL CAP’s Elder Mentor program. Almost half of the elder mentors in Alaska are in the YK Delta.
The elders help students with reading and assignments. They model appropriate behavior. And in the YK Delta they teach Yup’ik language and traditional skills like ice fishing and sewing.
In exchange, the elders receive a small stipend.
This week elder mentors from across the YK Delta traveled to Bethel for training. KYUK talked with some of them about their experiences in the classroom and how the program benefits the community.
Ida Williams is one of two elder mentors in Lower Kalskag. She’s a former teacher and is starting her third year with the program.
Marie Napoka is an elder mentor in Tuluksak. The community has the most elder mentors of any YK Delta school with 14 regularly volunteering.
Noah Alexie is also from Tuluksak. This will be his first year in the program.
Henrietta Long is an elder mentor in Hooper Bay. This will be Henrietta’s first year with the program.
There are 40 elder mentors serving in five YK Delta communities: Pilot Station, Russian Mission, Hooper Bay, Lower Kalskag, and Tuluksak.
RurAL CAP wants to get more elder mentors in more schools. Lower income seniors, age 55 or older, are eligible to apply. Mentors receive a small stipend. It’s tax exempt and doesn’t affect other financial assistance.