ANCHORAGE, AK – Coastal Villages Region Fund (CVRF) announced today that hundreds of youth from across Western Alaska are being put to work through its “Youth to Work” (YTW) program.

In June, 624 young Alaskans from the CVRF region were hired through the YTW program, which has played a vital role in providing opportunities to an area of the state where unemployment runs high and job opportunities are limited.

Over the past 9 summers, the YTW program and CVRF’s partnership with 57 local organizations across Western Alaska have made it possible for CVRF to place youth at job sites in each of its communities. Youth are also working with 32 regionally hired YTW instructors gathering subsistence foods for elders, learning how to mend fish nets, making Yupik crafts, and other traditional life skills. This program successfully mixes modern economic systems with everyday Yupik skills necessary to maintain a traditional lifestyle in Western Alaska.

“This is my first job. It was challenging to get up early for work at first, but now I am used to it and look forward to work each day. I have worked in the store stocking groceries and at the CVRF office as an assistant,” said William Chaney Jr., a YTW employee in Napakiak, “I have also learned how to mend fish nets, and now I will be able to help my family with theirs for subsistence and commercial fishing. I plan on spending my summer pay checks on new clothes for school.”

CVRF’s youngest employees learn the basic foundations of a fundamental work ethic such as being on-time, providing good customer service, developing positive and professional relationships, and accepting the roles and responsibilities of a typical employee.

“The way we are building the work ethic in our region is to start with the younger generation,” says Deloras Lozano, Community Service Manager who resides in Kongiganak. “They are our future leaders and we want them to build a strong foundation for their careers. The employment experience provided by this program gives a large number of young people opportunities they would not usually have until they are much older due to the lack of jobs in our region.

“Regional youth will transition into adulthood with the career readiness skills that employers look for in entry level workers including soft skills such as understanding how to behave in a work environment. They will also establish a work history, build personal references and develop a better understanding of occupations in order to make informed career choices,” said Marlene Minnette, CVRF Programs Specialist, originally from Mekoryuk. “In addition, they get to experience the feeling of pride that comes when you receive a paycheck for your efforts and recognition for a job well done.”

CVRF’s goal with the YTW program is to engage youth with the benefits of employment, and in turn positively affect the youth to increase school attendance, reduce dropout rates, and increase the likelihood of young people taking advantage of CVRF’s scholarship and internship opportunities.

“I started the YTW program when I was 14 years old and I worked every summer until I graduated from Tununak High School,” said Emma Albert, a CVRF Community Benefits Intern in Kipnuk. “I am now enrolled in the Kuskokwim University Campus in Bethel and I plan on majoring in Nursing. The YTW program prepared me to work in an office setting, and now I can save money for college all summer.”