SCF Raise Program: The Return to Spirit Lake

By Technical Writer Uinita Mauigoa

The imagery of Alaska Native and American Indian youth pulling nets abundant with fish from the mouth of the Kenai River seemed but a distant memory for Southcentral Foundation’s Raise Program during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the first time in four years, Raise’s summer session was more than ready to return to Spirit Lake to create new lasting memories.

Subsistence fishing at the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s educational fishery is an unforgettable experience for Southcentral Foundation Raise Program interns during the summer retreat to Spirit Lake.

The annual culturally focused retreat to Salamatof Native Association Inc.’s Spirit Lake has always been a highlight of Raise’s summer session. It provides an opportunity for interns to learn, bond, network, and create lifelong friendships to support each other professionally and through different avenues of life.

The three-day experience is jam-packed with cultural activities. Interns immerse themselves in the experience of subsistence fishing as they travel to the Kenaitze Indian Tribe’s educational fishery to learn how to set the net to fish and how then to filet their catch. For many interns, this is their first opportunity to experience subsistence fishing. Additional cultural activities include beadwork, singing, drumming, and storytelling.

There is a lot of sharing of culture and story among interns. Some interns are deeply connected to their cultures and share their knowledge with peers and employees. For interns who may not have those influences in their homes, it provides an opportunity to learn about their cultures and many others.

Through shared responsibilities such as cooking, cleaning, and maintaining the campgrounds, interns learn the importance of working together as a community, which is important to many Alaska Native cultures. Interns are able to strengthen their relationship-building skills as they understand and work with peers that come from a diverse array of backgrounds.

All 60 Raise interns are joined by members of SCF’s senior leadership team at Spirit Lake. Everyone is able to connect on a personal level as they gather around the warmth of the fires sharing story and learning from one another.

After dedicating hard work during the summer, the trip to Spirit Lake provides a balance of fun and laughter for interns. This summer session included five groups for students ages 14-19. There are groups that focus on administrative support and health care careers. The Academic Achievers group provides credit recovery, the Community Development group engages in community projects, and the Heritage and Traditions group connects interns with visitors at the Alaska Native Heritage Center to share cultural knowledge.

The goals of the Raise Program are to introduce Alaska Native and American Indian interns to administrative and health care careers, provide work site experiences, and support educational goals to become the next generation of leaders. The future looks bright with Raise interns on the horizon.

For more information about the Raise Program, call (907) 729-5015.

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