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Senior project brings students into community

With only a few months left in the school year, senior projects are in full swing. Yesterday, several students stopped by KSTK for a tour of the studio. KSTK’s Shady Grove Oliver has more on the project that brought them to the radio station.

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What do tye-dye, radio, and making mini pizzas have in common? They’re all activities students have done as part of Erica Smith’s senior project.

Smith says it’s an after school program to get kids engaged in the community.

“This program is mainly targeting middle school and high school-aged students who aren’t involved in any after school activity like DDF or basketball, volleyball practices. It just kind of gives them a place to come and hang out, have a good time and maybe learn a few things that they don’t exactly get from school—just more of a one-on-one deal instead of a big group,” says Smith.

Addy Esco is a counselor at Wrangell Schools.

She’s working with Smith to develop the program. She says it is a fun thing for kids to be a part of, but there’s a more serious reason for doing it.

“There is a grant that I manage through Alaska Island Community Services and the core of it is to cultivate drug-resistant skills in our students here in our community. So, the idea behind the after school program this year was to cultivate some of those skills by providing the opportunity for them to build healthy peer relationships, by having healthy connections in the community with different adults and that sort of thing. The hope is that by doing that, they’d be less likely to make some high-risk choices,” says Esco.

Every day, anywhere between four and twelve students meet up after school and do some type of activity with an adult in town.

They’ve heard a presentation on film photography, built bridges out of duct tape, and done watercolor tracing during an art workshop.

But, Smith says that most popular award went to the make your own personal pizza day.

She says she hopes her fellow students will perhaps discover a new interest or hobby while getting to work side by side with adults they can look up to.

“Interacting them with more adults from the community and people they aren’t normally around—that opens another door for them. They’ll see them around town. It interacts them more and broadens their spectrum,” says Smith.

Esco says it’s important for students to have homegrown role models.

“For youth having a healthy relationship with adults in our community is such a vital thing,” says Esco.

It gives them more outlets to participate in the community, from volunteering to having a safe place to hang out.

She also says sometimes kids need adults they can trust and can go to for help if there’s a real problem.

“Kids aren’t apt to seek that out on their own, necessarily. So, providing the atmosphere and the opportunity for adults to already have that connection with the student is great because kids are much more likely to reach out to adults they already have familiarity with—that they already have that connection with. So, the hope is to foster those connections here in our community,” says Esco.

Smith hopes the project will continue after she graduates. Her advice for a senior next year who might want to take it on as a project?

Get the word out early and…don’t forget the pizza.

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