For several years the Kenai Peninsula Construction Academy has been training those interested locally in learning a trade or skill, thanks to Bob Hammer who had the original idea to prepare Alaskans for Alaskan jobs being vacated by retiring Baby Boomers. Recently the program expanded to include 39 youth from rural Alaska villages. “This is the first time we’ve been able to partner up with village Alaska and help teach some skills to our young people that don’t have access to this training in their villages,” Hammer told the Dispatch in an interview, “It’s really been an exciting adventure in culture exchange with our instructors and the youth from distant villages sharing their culture with our culture while teaching them some basic construction skills and it really worked out well,” said Hammer. Carol Wilson, executive director of EXCEL Alaska helped coordinate the partnership with the Kenai Construction Academy, “EXCEL is a program that was just started last year as a private non-profit organization to provide opportunities for village youth to learn what it’s like outside their village,” she said.
According to Wilson, EXCEL Alaska will provides high school students and young adults with the necessary transitional skills and career exploration opportunities to be successful in the ever changing world. This is accomplished through increasing each student’s knowledge in a wide variety of areas including personal, social and career development, service training, urban familiarization, leadership, character, and life skills development.
EXCEL Alaska students transition into adulthood with a viable Personal Learning & Career Plan, Occupational
Endorsements, National Employability Certificates and dual college credits. To accomplish this EXCEL works directly with village school districts, “We have a liaison at each school district that provide applications to any student interested, then based on teacher recommendations this year we brought 39 students here to the Kenai Construction Academy,” explained Wilson.
Dino of Aniak, Alaska said, “I wanted to know what to do with my future after I graduate and what I’ve learned here will be a big help. The Kenai Peninsula is very different from my village of Aniak,” she said.