Friday, April 21, 2006

What's happening in Sitka, Alaska?

Earlier this week I was at Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, Alaska for the launch of the Partners in Education program. Simply put the program is an ecosystem of industry, academia and public officials that are trying to build up the local economy by encouraging students to build up their skills and stay local. If you are interested a piece ran on the local NPR affiliate, which you can hear as an MP3 on KCAW.

The day started of with a roundtable discussion with roughly 25 students and 10 members of the faculty. I learned a lot during this session. 95% of the students at Mt. Edgecumbe are Native Alaskan and they have a huge fear that once they go away to college they will loose their cultural identity. As a Caucasian male this is something I never would have considered in my entire life and these kids are concerned about it at 16 years old. I think globalization will help in this case, as it will assimilate more cultures and encourage and almost force more understanding. The students were also very much in tune with the concept of globalization and the economic growth of both China and India and what that means to them. Many of them considered these trends when choosing a university and a career in the fields of science and engineering knowing that these skills will be in demand when they graduate.

I also learned a lot about opportunities. The Commissioner of Education for Alaska, Roger Sampson spoke and gave a compelling speech about opportunity and hope. Many of the Mt. Edgecumbe students come from very dire situations and many of them have lost any hope of reaching their dreams and they are forced to settle with "careers" that they take out of survival instead out of interest.

If any students walked away from the event just knowing that somebody, such as the Partners in Education, are looking out for their interests and can provide them with hope we have succeeded.

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