Cultural Exchange Institute - August 1–6, 2016

The Kenai Peninsula Native Youth Leaders (KPNYL) school based team of intertribal students explored “Native Pride – Blood –Phamily – Traditions – Earth” during the first Cultural Exchange Institute (CEI), held August 1-6, 2016.

Imagined by the 2010 founding students, and accomplished by the 2015-2016 KPNYL members, approximately 125 middle and high school students joined their school site teams. Members use consensus style decision making, are non-competitive, and work with other schools within the Kenai Peninsula Borough School (KPBSD).

Leadership and Planning

KPNYL District Delegates, representing 12 school site teams, met at AFN conference for Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula (PGKP) Leadership Institute, where their purpose was to develop a plan, organize, lead, and host a student- to- student, weeklong event that encompassed cultural exchange and end with a “POW WOW” celebration. Their challenge was to include current member interest areas, create a theme, and honor the original member’s outcome of Community Support for Youth with three goals to:

  • Educate our Communities
  • Have Kids Choice–Fun Activities
  • Family and Community Involvement

Through surveys and evaluations of all current members the outline was established for the institute, as well as prioritizing main topics, requirements, and activities. Moreover, students participated in other PGKP Institutes and District Delegates attended state and national native youth conferences and trainings.

During the first week in August, students came together to turn their dream into reality by working in multiple teams throughout the week, camping outside, learning new cultures, sharing pride in their traditions, celebrating individual strengthens, and hosting the event. To add to the institute “exchange students” from Hydaburg, Alaska, joined the group, making it a 32 student leadership event.


The entire team made daily meals, packed for the weather, and rode the bus to town. They discovered skills to make life choices with native motivational speakers including DJ Vanas, author of The Tiny Warrior. In addition, they worked with Brightways Learning, about growing their educational anchors, PHamily, and going from where they are to where they want to be.

Midday learning

After lunch students broke into classes based on individual interest and learned with native mentors and instructors in each of the topics. The six classes were titled The Way of the Hunter, Subsistence by the Sea, Weaving Culture through Time, Beautiful You Photography, and Musical Storytelling with the purpose of linking traditional knowledge with contemporary lifestyles.


Students worked together on “POW WOW etiquette”, changing stereotypes, peaceful resolutions, community challenges, race versus humanity, and being stewards of the land. Student teams were broken into different groups where they took on the duties for the celebration, such as entertainment, food preparation, and hosting. Also, members established the 2016-2017 school year focus for the district wide team. Each school site team will work on a group focus-project and team challenge this year.

Students were guided to make a post-secondary plan, choose a path of Subsistence-Self Employment, Technical Trade School, or college. On Friday, Kenai Peninsula College hosted a program for students to work with college students on what KPC Residential Hall has to offer.

At the Saturday POW Wow celebration, by invitation only, students shared what they learned during the week, hosted a BBQ, and performed with Sleeping Lady Singers and Dancers. The group is an Alaska intertribal community based drum group that has a foundation in sobriety.

Thank you…

The Cultural Exchange Institute was supported by the Ninilchik Traditional Council, Kenaitze Indian Tribe, and Salinan Tribal members, who shared their knowledge with students. More than 120 guests, Family-Phamily, and members that attended the final celebration. Thank you to all the people who supported, donated, participated, encourage, or joined our students in achieving their goals!

The KPNYL program coordinated and delivered though PGKP Student Family Support (SFS) Department and is funded though Alaska Native Education (ANE) Grant and Kenia Peninsula Brought School District (KPBSD).


Facebook pages

Story contributed by Jennifer Freeman

KPBSD Facebook Logo 2013 SML