Wednesday was the grand opening of the Kusilvak Career Academy in Anchorage. It’s a program that brings students from the Lower Yukon School District in Western Alaska to Anchorage so they can take career and technical education classes at King Tech High School. The students still take their regular classes too.

A similar situation would be students from Eagle River High School or West High School taking classes at King Tech. It's the same concept that provides the same opportunities for rural students except the kids are away from home for nine weeks straight. 

"Students can just get a computer in the morning, work on their online course," said LYSD Director of Human Resources Gene Stone. "They get supported by certified teachers and aids. Then they have their lunch here and then they head over to King Tech, and they have an advisory course and learn some soft skills. And then they launch in from 3:00 to 5:00 into just a full blown CTE course."

For Scammon Bay School senior Tom Tunutmoak, participating in the program was an easy decision. 

"Looking forward to my future and going to different places and new things I didn't know," Tunutmoak said. "Trying to learn as much as I can.”

Tunutmoak is one of 42 students to sign up for the academy that LYSD Superintendent Hannibal Anderson says has been in the works for about a year.

He says there was a vision and a very clear need for students in rural Alaska to be able to access career pathways.

“What I'll never forget, and I’ll be eternally grateful for and appreciative of, is how the stars aligned around this process to make this occur this quickly in a way that rarely occurs," Anderson said.

He says there are two reasons why Kusilvak came together the way it did. 

"The courage of our Lower Yukon School District board, to step into a new world of opportunity and the remarkable welcome and open-armed support that the Anchorage School District board stepped into that space together with us." Anderson said. 

With money out of the general fund, LYSD purchased and renovated the building that used to be known as the Alaskan Long House Hotel to house the students. The building can house up to 80.

Tunutmoak already has his eyes set on his future. 

"I'd like to go into job corps," he said. "Yes, and go for carpentry and small engineer."

Tunutmoak and his fellow classmates are a week and a half into the inaugural stay.

The program will run its second session in January with a third to follow in March. Juniors and seniors are eligible for the program and they may come back as many times as they qualify. 

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