portrait of Andrea Irrigoo

 

Last month The Resource Basket partnered with NCAI and OJJDP’s Tribal Youth Program to share the story of an inspiring young person living in Nome, Alaska. The original newsletter release is here.

Meet Andrea Irrigoo

Andrea Irrigoo, Central Yup’ik, is an outgoing, positive and involved young woman. Originally from the Native Village of Stebbins in Northwest Alaska (population 580), she now lives in Nome (population 3,500). Her commitment to lead and support positive community activities through volunteering provides her life with direction and meaning even while living in small and remote communities that can appear to have “nothing to offer” young people.Andrea Irrigoo pic

Living in rural Alaska is a challenge because you can know everyone and it can feel as though you have nothing to talk about or do, especially in a village. However, as a child I always wanted to make something out of nothing. I listened to the radio all the time and thought, “I can have a radio station, too.” I found an empty cassette, asked a friend to be my co-host and we created a radio station of our own. It had music, weather, news, and special guests. Sure it wasn’t a real radio station, but I made it. I guess I was always a dreamer and a doer.

I joined band and learned the clarinet, and was good at it. Eventually I moved on to the saxophone. My music teacher looked at me and said, “Um, okay, but it might take you a while.” Right there he challenged me to learn. It took me a week and I was as good as the older kids. In High School I was asked to join the “Teens Against Tobacco Use” (T.A.T.U.) group which was something new and different. I was excited to be a role model, to prevent young people from harming their bodies, and to educate and change our future. Change peoples’ thoughts on tobacco use was a challenge but I am always willing to take the challenge. I still keep moving as I see other people who give up. There are times I want to just give up, but in my heart I know I can’t because, then what will happen to me? I can’t be successful in life by giving up on things that are hard or not what I planned.

In Nome it’s hard not to be so involved. You can’t always go shopping in a mall or check out different shops around town because there are so few. You run out of things to do. I haven’t lived in Nome for too long but it’s getting to the point where I know everyone and everyone knows me, even before I know them! I’ve shared my times around the restaurants and small celebrations. After seeing the same tree so many times, it gets old. Becoming involved in something different and seeing new faces makes things more exciting. I am an extroverted person at heart and I want to meet new people every day. I love being able to listen to their story, and life just interests me. Contributing to programs like “Nome Native Youth Leadership Organization,” “Teens Against Tobacco Use,” Leaders of Life, or the Green Dot approach for violence prevention, has been easy because I talk to anyone and everyone. Some people need to just talk to someone. I want to be that person they can trust to talk to.

Andrea is motivated and fulfilled by contributing to her community, and receives great happiness and meaning from it in return. She is planning and looking forward to her next adventures and using her talents post-high school through higher education, likely outside Alaska.