STEPS Alaska Updates
Stepping Up for Alaska's Youth!

Save the Date!

Annual Gathering
May 6 & 7, 2021
We Are Better Together

Every 6 months, the Association of Alaska School Boards team pulls together partner reports and shares progress with the US Department of Education. We include how STEPS partners are working together to improve indicators and better serve kids and families. While looking at the progress partners are making on the 41 STEPs solutions, we are reminded of the commitment each of our partners has to our kids and families in Southeast Alaska.

Even in these times of isolation and loneliness and separation - or rather, especially in these times of isolation, loneliness, and separation- folks came together like never before. We saw creativity, collaboration, and inspiration. STEPS partners found opportunities to work on shared goals, remove barriers for families and children, and change systems to create more equitable opportunities. 

The AASB staff read your stories and analyzed data that showed us that when we work together to support our students- even when they are struggling with a once-in-a-lifetime experience such as the COVID-19 pandemic- we do better by them.

We chose a few short stories to share with you this month and plan to share more of the data results in a future STEPS newsletter. 

Thank you! Gunalchéesh! Háw'aa! T’oyaxsut ‘nüüsm! for all that you do.
STEPS Alaska Family Partnership Learning Community - Building Connections & Relationships with Families

Research shows that family involvement positively impacts both grades and attendance of students regardless of income or educational background of the family. While most schools offer opportunities for family involvement such as family nights and parent-teacher conferences, many schools are going deeper. In 2020, this work was more collaborative, more effective, and shows the power of family and school partnerships to achieve a shared goal.

The STEPS school districts' Family Engagement Specialists have been working together to share their own experiences, training, and questions about family partnership. In the STEPS Family Engagement Professional Learning Community (PLC) since Fall of 2019. During this last year, our family engagement specialists served a key role in connecting families - sometimes quite literally as many stepped in and helped their district identify and assist families who lacked internet connectivity and/or devices or needed other essential resources. 
As many school staff were just starting to figure out how to “do family partnership work”, many of the Family Engagement Specialists contributed to resources on this subject that su available to all STEPS school staff. Stronger Together: The Power of School and Family Partnerships in Alaska.

This year, STEPS partners developed new communication strategies, built strong relationships, met families where they were at, ensured that each family had the tools needed for their students' success. Often, many schools provided at-home learning and play activities that reinforced learning objectives. The activities were clear, culturally responsive, and manageable for our families. This was critical. Equally important, families started to see the school as a partner for their own well-being. Many schools served as a resource for food, technology, social and emotional tools, and other supports. As one family engagement specialist shared, "Many people expressed gratitude that "someone" from the schools was reaching out to them personally, even if a solution was not readily available." Feeling a sense of connection and togetherness made families feel less alone as they navigated this new normal.
The pandemic stretched each of our school districts to really put into place 
tangible ways to support families, on family and students’ terms. Classroom teachers thought of new ways to build relationships, each staff in the building helped others build relationships with families, and families were included in learning goals and linked to learning.  

If there is a silver lining of the pandemic, it is that teachers have now become comfortable with reaching out to families, and families have become accustomed to new platforms to connect and support their children's learning. 

During our last Family Engagement meeting, we asked the group two questions: What are ways we can work towards connecting with our students and families in systemic ways? And what tools can we use to do so?

Some of the examples our PLC participants shared included:

  • Reach out to parents at the start of the year to connect and share a contact for someone they can reach out to or call if needed
  • Create prompts for parents/family to share some "protective factors" to identify together and connect those strengths to needs in the school community
  • Create scripts for teachers and other staff to use when reaching out to families, along with logs to track their contacts

There is still much work to do and many questions that remain: How can we reach and serve our families with the support they need? What tools help school staff to remove barriers for meaningful partnership with families? How do we deepen our partnerships we developed during the past so that families feel confident and connected to their child’s learning? How do we use these partnerships to help students transition in the most critical grades and at the most critical times in their social and emotional development?

Not only can our STEPS schools find ways to systematically partner, each organization working with students and families can consider how they can play a role in building bridges between the schools and families. If you are interested in joining the learning community or are looking for tools, reach out to AASB or one another.

Yakutat - School-Community Partnership Lends a Helpful Hand
Students and schools finding solutions for the community

A community member in Yakutat lost his left hand in an accident years ago. He has always had a basic prosthetic, but it didn’t include any fingers or gripping capabilities. So, high school teacher Nate Endicott worked with his junior high and high school students to use a 3D printer to create a new prosthesis. With grips and fingers that move, the new prosthesis works like a real hand. Students learned how to mold/shape, how a prosthesis works, 3D printer specs, and more through working on this project. The students continue to refine their work, fixing broken parts and creating new prosthetics for this community member to use. The Yakutat community is really proud of this thoughtful and compassionate group of students. They are using STEM innovations from around the world to contribute to local solutions in their community. 
Hydaburg - Working Together for Post-Secondary Goal-Setting

In Hydaburg, collective efforts are inspiring students to think ahead about who they want to become and how they might get there. Post-secondary goal-setting is the new norm, with all staff working together to help students to imagine their own future.

Some of the activities include:
  • The guidance counselor met with students weekly to create plans. Each student creates a portfolio for the future.
  • Life after high school is represented throughout the school, including images of staff members in their graduation gear and their colleges on each teacher's door
  • The physical college and careers center in the high school is mirrored by a virtual Counselor’s Corner page where students and families can access information about scholarships and other opportunities
  • One fun activity in the Virtual Counselor's Corner is Hydaburg City Schools Virtual Calming Room where you can tap into a Haida Affirmations like this video put together by Susie Edwardson which explains how to say “I Love You” in Haad Kil
Yaghw Janaas, Susie Edwardson, an Alaska Native Language learner in Juneau, has a youtube channel with her videos in Haad Kil, the Haida Language. Her videos have been posted on Hydaburg’s webpage as a resource for students and families during remote learning.
R.O.C.K. Juneau - Community Coordination for Prevention

For the last eighteen months, R.O.C.K. Juneau has facilitated a monthly workgroup of local perinatal medical and social service providers in an effort to design and implement greater upstream prevention coordination and supportive networks for newborns and their families. This work has resulted in Bartlett Regional Hospital being awarded a three year grant contract for a Case Manager/Navigator position who will be working with families impacted by tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use. R.O.C.K. Juneau will continue as a community facilitator and liaison to supporting opt-in engagement and flow of services needed for infants and families. Together, the goal is to promote healthy families, decrease substance use stigma, and prevent the separation of Alaskan families.
Sitka - COVID Adaptation Through Collaboration
(Note: this article by Emma Thompson of SAFV, was originally published in the RurALCAP newsletter and was edited here for STEPS)

Boys Run / Keet Kids Run i toowú klatseen is a collaboration between STA CREED, Sitkans Against Family Violence (SAFV)’s Primary Prevention Program, and a number of other partner agencies. For the 2020 - 2021 school year, Keet Kids Run I toowú klatseen (KKRITK) was adapted from the Boys Run I toowú klatseen program that has been offered to 3rd - 5th grade boys in Sitka, Juneau, and Kake for the last seven years. Due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the adapted program was offered virtually to all genders this year. Through collaboration, the virtual program was a great success, despite many potential barriers.

Each of the KKRITK lessons is rooted in Southeast Alaska traditional tribal values, such as Respect for Self, Elders, and Others, and Respect for Nature and Property. These values are reinforced throughout the program with stories like “How Raven Stole the Sun'' and “The Young Man and the Egg Shell.”
Participants also learned more about the values through writing prompts and fun activities (see drawing of a participant’s family, left). They practiced introducing themselves to their teammates on a video call using a traditional origin story structure, discovered the Tlingit words for different emotions in their program journals, and learned the Native Youth Olympics Scissor Broad Jump through a pre-recorded video. In addition to stories, activities, and video calls, KKRITK participants engage in physical activity throughout the season that helped them prepare to run a culminating 5K run that saw over 50 participants this year. 

For more information, please contact: 
  • Sitka: Hillary Nutting (, Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Youth Program Manager, or Kera Jefferson (, AmeriCorps Prevention Specialist at Sitkans Against Family Violence
  • Kake and Angoon: Amanda Capitummino (, Communications and Evaluation Specialist at Sitkans Against Family Violence
  • Juneau service area: Natalie Watson (, Girls on the Run and I toowú klatseen Manager at AWARE
Events & Opportunities
The pandemic has ushered in a wide range of virtual opportunities for families and across Southeast Alaska to tap into a wide range of programs and resources. Who do you know who might be interested in these opportunities?

Early Learning Fair - March 24th, 1 - 2:30 and 6 - 7:30
For parents, caregivers, and early childhood educators
The virtual fair will have plenty of opportunities to connect with other parents, learn more about child development, and link to programs and resources in the community.
Join any of the virtual sessions here:

Parents as Teachers - Home Visiting Program
For parents of young children
Regular one-on-one virtual home visits can help support parents and caregivers when and where they need it most.
Three spaces are currently open
Pro-tip: Download and make copies of the one-page form to hand out to families or have a supply on hand at the community clinic, tribal office, school or other locations.

Circle of Security - Parenting Classes
For parents and caregivers of young and school aged children
Two class series start mid-March and another one is coming in April. 
This eight week series of small group classes can help parents and caregivers learn how to support their children as they grow. 
Pro-tip: Classes are often added to the calendar. Contact Becky Roth, to find out what’s coming up.

Rain or Shine Learning All the Time - Public Messaging Campaign
For organizations and community members
Bright images and short messages remind parents caregivers about the simple things they can do to help spark big brain growth for their little people. 
Access these social media ready files or get posters for your community by contacting Emily Ferry,, (907) 463-1660. 
Tlingit & Haida Navigators Tutoring Services
For students needing extra support
The Navigators team is now offering one-on-one virtual tutoring services that align with students’ schedules. Students can register here: or contact Kaley at 907-463-7752 or 

Summer Construction Academy - May 24-29
For Students
Tlingit & Haida is collaborating with the University of Southeast to support students in participating in the summer Intro to Construction Courses. The three courses during the week-long intensive are: S102 – Intro to Construction, S103 – Hand and Power tools, S104 – Safety OSHA. Students will receive 3 UAS credits as well as OSHA Construction Safety certification. 

Tlingit & Haida and UAS are working together to cover the cost of travel, lodging, food, and tuition for approximately 15-20 students from our STEPS communities. At this time, we are reaching out to our community partners and contacts to gage interest and get the word out of this opportunity. We would love to work with the school districts and communities to get a co-hort of students to participate in this opportunity. If you have any questions or further information, please feel free to contact Sarah Dybdahl or Tina Ryman

Amplify Youth Voices Alaska - March 18th & April 9th
For Alaskan students ages 10 to 25
Participate in workshops with other Alaskan students and develop artwork and messages of hope and inspiration while dealing with the pandemic.
Register for upcoming workshops like Cauyaqa Nauwa? Where's my Drum? With Stephen Blanchett (March 18th) and Cartooning Faces with Lee Post (April 9th) or view past videos here.

What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?
For High School Students
Spruce Root and the Chatham School District are providing an entrepreneurship course on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:53-10:43am. Students from across Southeast are encouraged to join. Interested in participating or learning more? Reach out to Laurel Stark at
AASB Updates and Opportunities:

Reminder: Schools are now administering the the School Climate and Connectedness Survey taken by students, staff and families in all STEPS communities. The survey is open through March 26. Community partners can work with their school district to encourage families to take this survey. With new questions about the impact of the pandemic, the survey can help you navigate a path forward. Contact your local coordinator or Jenni Lefing at to find out how you can help.