Spotlight on You!
2021: A Healing Journey During Covid-19
I toowú klatseen is Tlingit for “strengthen your spirit,” and each of the program’s 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 learn more about the values through writing prompts and fun activities (See drawing of a participant’s family). They practice introducing themselves to their teammates on a video call using a traditional origin story structure, discover the Tlingit words for different emotions in their program journals, and learn the Native Youth Olympics Scissor Broad Jump through a pre-recorded video. In addition to stories, activities, and video calls, Keet Kids Run participants engage in physical activity throughout the season that helps them prepare to run a culminating 5K.
Running with Respect
This season’s second to fifth grade participants enjoyed running, connecting with their families and each other, and learning about feelings and self control. One participant shared that their favorite part of the program was “running and talking and having fun with [their] family.” Another especially enjoyed the stories they heard throughout the program. When asked why appreciating differences is important on a connection call with adult mentors who serve as program coaches, one child responded, “other people can be really interesting!” All of the participants who completed the program survey agreed that Keet Kids Run taught them that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, and helped them appreciate the differences that make people special.
Parents and guardians of program participants were grateful to have Keet Kids Run as an option for their children this year. Following a demonstration of the way that keeping emotions bottled up can lead to an “emotion volcano,” or an unhealthy and explosive release of emotions, one guardian commented that the lesson was “needed for a time like this.” Another parent shared that their child especially enjoyed the hands-on activities, “and they were a great way to practice the concepts.” (See photo of cup-stacking game that requires teamwork and positive communication.) Another guardian who appreciated Keep Kids Run said it was a “wonderful opportunity & such a fun experience you have given two of our children. It has been precious in these recent months.”
Participants showed incredible strength of spirit this season, and it was a privilege to watch them grow and learn. Throughout the program, they learned to process emotions and resolve conflicts in healthy ways, to practice allyship, and to celebrate cultural diversity. Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Sitkans Against Family Violence, Sitka Counseling, Youth Advocates of Sitka, and the Sitka School District, all members of Sitka’s Pathways Community Coalition, are excited to continue offering Sitka’s young people the opportunity to learn these invaluable skills, and will implement Keet Kids Run I toowú klatseen again this spring.
About Program: Boys Run I toowú klatseen
Boys Run I toowú klatseen is a ten week after-school program for third to fifth graders that helps build self-esteem, healthy relationship skills, and respect. It works to combat Alaska’s high rates of suicide, substance abuse, teen dating violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault by teaching children to recognize and process emotions, and connecting them to adult mentors and Southeast Alaska traditional culture and values. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sitka’s Pathways Coalition and partners from the Boys Run Council–specifically Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies, Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes, Sitkans Against Family Violence, and Sitka Tribe of Alaska–adapted the program to occur virtually and opened registration to second to fifth graders of all genders. Sitka’s first season of this abbreviated program–Keet Kids Run I toowú klatseen–concluded mid-December with a socially distanced 5K fun run that attracted over 50 participants.
Please contact Hillary Nutting, Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Youth Program Manager, at (firstname.lastname@example.org) for further information.
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