Hooray for teens! Today’s post is a guest appearance by high school student Isabella Sellers, a Senior enrolled in the Anchorage School District’s fabulous Tourism and Hospitality program at King Career Center. Last fall, I visited two dynamic classes of students at KCC, presenting about the real world of travel journalism, and issued a challenge. If students would create a blog post about a recent field trip to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, I would post one of their essays. Isabella’s, written with an interesting perspective, reiterates the need for family travel attractions to appeal to an often-overlooked demographic, the teenager. I appreciated her honest approach and hope you will, too.
Here is Isabella’s post:
Like many Alaska teens, I have gone through the education system learning about my state’s Native culture. Elementary school was full of excursions to various exhibits and museums highlighting the state’s First People, and my memories recall hazy field trips, information, and the occasional guest speaker. Yes, a strong academic presence of Alaska Native education was there, but I understand now, as a senior in high school, how little I truly retained, and I’m sure teens from other states can relate.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center was different. Each guide had a personal connection to the information, and while not all guides were born in rural Alaska communities, all had strong connections to specific traditions that brought passion into their tours. Whether working on beadwork indoors—featuring real animal teeth as the main pendant on a beaded necklace—or an outdoor tour of traditional-style homes with our enthused tour guide, Michelle, each activity drew our entire group closer to something that genuinely interested us. Instead of sitting through the presentations and merely biding time, my class asked questions and opened up conversations about Native Alaskan culture relational to us, as teens ready to make our own way in this world.
Spending time with tour guides and activity leaders meant meeting people with a real-time connection to a cultural past while living in present-day, urban Anchorage. In school, there was always an aged feeling when talking about Native Alaskan cultures, as if ties had slowly faded from public view or regard. Spending an afternoon with individuals who have kept a connection to their heritage reinforced the determination and resilience of Alaska Native groups, 11 of which are represented at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Speaking with the woman leading the beadwork activity of our field trip, I also learned about many different after-school activities, like the ‘Walking in Two Worlds’ program, ensuring continuity between young people with Native Alaska ties, and keeping them engaged in culture and on track for success within the Anchorage School District.
During my visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center, I never once found myself bored or disinterested. The trip was engaging and enlightening, with enthusiastic guides that shared their knowledge and information in a way that kept attention. During the summer months, guided tours of both indoor and outdoor exhibits are free and occcur on a regular basis. Be sure to stick around for demonstrations of games, dancing, drumming, and storytelling, too.
No trip to Anchorage is complete without visiting this insightful building and learning about the rich Native Alaskan culture that thrives, especially now.
You can read more about the Alaska Native Heritage Center and its appeal for families of any age, HERE.