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USDA Funding Support Helps a Native Learning Center in Rural Alaska to Grow

Posted by Tiffany Tony, Yuut Elitnaurviat – People’s Learning Center, Bethel, Alaska in Initiatives Rural
Jun 30, 2010

Yuut Elitnaurviat – People’s Learning Center (YE) is a non-profit vocational training center created by regional leaders to address the unique training and vocational education needs of the primarily Native residents of the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta Region of southwestern Alaska. YE has been carefully designed and is community driven.

YE began as a pie-in-the-sky idea in 1998, the original two staff members were hired in 2002 after a comprehensive feasibility study was completed. After securing 23 separate capital funding streams, including a $2 million grant from USDA Rural Development, and piloting programs in four core career pathways the Yuut Elitnaurviat Regional Vocational Campus became fully operational.

Our project is a success. Our region saw a need, came together, created a plan and implemented it. It was not easy by any means but was well worth every effort. USDA was instrumental in the construction of the two existing dormitories on campus, which have subsequently proved to be operationally sustainable and are at full capacity year round with wait lists of users.

We are now pursuing an expansion onto our main Technical Education and Support Services facility that will add space for the regional Community Health Aide Program, expand the Dental Training Clinic, and will create the first Early Childhood Education School in rural Alaska. The ECE center will be innovative in that it will provide a much-needed opportunity for childcare while at the same time is being designed to be a teaching facility for individuals pursuing degrees in Early Childhood Education, one of the most in-demand occupations in our region.

The YE campus now houses numerous coordinated, regional, and partner training programs. Course offerings are designed to engage the residents of the region and are focused on in-demand, high-wage, regional jobs. We have a basic education center, provide training for Village Public Safety Officers and host the only Federal apprenticeship programs for industrial carpentry, plumbing and electric.  Our first plumber will get his license this fall.  We also have a dental therapy program that trains dental assistants.

Prior to 2009 as we piloted small scale programs and constructed our campus we averaged 100 students served per year. For 2010, our first year of full operation, we are anticipating that we will be very close to 1000 students.

We are well on our way, and with support from USDA and other agencies, will continue to grow and plan to have a lasting impact on our region.

Two Dormitories for Students in Bethel, Built with funds provided by USDA.
Two Dormitories for Students in Bethel, Built with funds provided by USDA.
Yuut Elitnaurviat-People's Learning Center Building in Bethel, Alaska.
Yuut Elitnaurviat-People's Learning Center Building in Bethel, Alaska.

Category/Topic: Initiatives Rural