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Koniag Education Foundation makes the grade


Foundation exceeds its goal of reducing college dropout rates – ahead of schedule


When Koniag Education Foundation (KEF) received the U.S. Department of Education’s Alaska Native Education Grant in 2010, the foundation set the goal of using the $700,000 grant to reduce the college dropout rate among Alutiiq students to 5 percent in three years.

Instead, after only two years, the dropout rate among Koniag shareholders and descendants has plummeted – from 20 percent in 2010 to 3 percent in 2012.

“It’s an incredible result,” said KEF Executive Director Tyan Hayes. “We are very happy to know that KEF programs are making such a significant difference for our young people in college.”

KEF has used the Department of Education grant to fund outreach efforts including a student blog and gatherings at any university that has multiple Alutiiq students in attendance. The foundation has also launched a successful mentorship program that teams current college students with older students, graduates and professionals who help them navigate the college experience, offering guidance on everything from course selection to study habits and balancing school and social activities.

“KEF mentors work with students to help them stay on the right path – the path to graduation and a college degree,” Hayes said. “Adjusting to college life can be challenging, especially for students who are attending college in new places and big cities. It’s important that they have someone they can talk to who really understands what they are experiencing and can help them make good decisions.”

Nearly 250 students have participated in the KEF mentorship program since it was launched in the fall of 2009.

In addition to the Department of Education grant, KEF’s programs and scholarships are supported by individual donors, including Roger McCracken, who sits on KEF’s development committee. McCracken deposits all of his stock dividends into a fund for KEF and encourages his relatives to contribute as well. He said KEF’s programs have been not only beneficial but necessary to help Alutiiq students from rural areas transition into college life.

“Imagine living in a village and never being exposed to much outside of your small community,” McCracken said. “They can get lost. The only way to figure out how to do things is to have someone there to help you.”

That’s just what KEF’s mentorship program has done for Koniag students, he added. “I believed the mentorship program was the only way to help the Koniag children to discover their own success. They needed that helping hand,” McCracken said. “We’re now seeing a huge success ratio.”

Koniag Education Foundation is a private, not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization established in 1993 by a $5 million endowment from Koniag Inc., an Alaska Native Regional Corp.  KEF offers scholarships and grants to approximately 4,500 Alaska Natives of primarily Alutiiq heritage from the Koniag region for post-secondary education, vocational training and career advancement. Fifty percent of these shareholders reside in the rural villages of Kodiak Island and in the state of Alaska, while the other 50 percent reside in the contiguous U.S. and throughout the world.

For information, visit www.KoniagEducation.org.

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