Everyday afterschool professionals help keep kids safe, inspire learning, and support working Alaskan families. To celebrate this heroic effort the Alaska Afterschool Network is recognizing five outstanding afterschool professionals who act as everyday superheroes in our youth’s lives during Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week, happening April 23-27.
These five Afterschool Superheroes have gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure Alaska’s youth have a safe and enriching place to grow and learn during out-of-school time. Join us in celebrating their incredible commitment and passion for our youth.
Deanna Baier - Bristol Bay 4H Coordinator & Tribal ICWA Worker
UAF Cooperative Extension Service & Bristol Bay Native Association
Deanna's passion for youth and providing them with quality afterschool activities is evident when you talk with her about her programs. Her eyes light up and literally sparkle. Her enthusiasm is contagious, as evident by the number of community volunteers she engages throughout the Bristol Bay region. She has dramatically expanded the quantity and quality of culturally responsive 4H programming throughout Bristol Bay, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programming. She is dedicated to teaching and promoting Yup’ik culture, values, and activities. Her two-month summer Culture Camp teaches kids to check the net, clean and put up fish, gather plants to make salves, grow plants, hand stitch head dresses for Native dancing, and actively helps youth enhance their social skills. Deanna knows how important this is to building strong, healthy kids in Bristol Bay. Additionally, in the summer, Deanna travels by boat and airplane to bring culture camp to families that are living remotely at fish camp. She brings totes of activities such as salve making supplies so they can gather traditional plants and make healing salves, along with toys and activities, and information about staying healthy and safe.
Deanna is also well versed in resilience and has a deep understanding about how her presence and passion are building resilience in our youth. She does home visits with families who are tribal enrolled and brings books to these children when she visits. At times, Deanna will accompany the Office of Children’s Services to homes of families in crises, and her sweet, calming, familiar presence allows the family and children to feel more secure and comfortable.
Nominated by: Rebekah Fonkert, Parent of a Bristol Bay 4H Participant
Kyla Dammann - REC Room Coordinator
Kachemack Bay Family Planning Clinic
Kyla creates a safe and supportive environment that encourages teens to engage in a wide variety of REC Room activities that spark their passions and builds resiliency skills. She has engaged community members to expand the teen center’s program offerings, such as slam-poetry, music production, and cooking clubs. She is fun, funny, creative and believes in teens. She creates warm and welcoming relationships that empower teens. Kyla's can-do, right-away attitude, has strengthened programming at the REC Room. A teen recently stated that she loves spending time with Kyla "because we all get to make the plans together, it's not like she's telling us what to do"
Nominated by: Catriona Reynolds, Co-worker, REC Room
Jorden Nigro - Youth Development and Services Manager
City and Borough of Juneau Park and Recreation Department
Jorden is an extraordinary community advocate and collaborator for Juneau's youth, and particular for disadvantaged youth. Through her leadership she has transformed Juneau City and Borough Parks and Recreation’s youth services. She has created greater sustainability for the BAM (Body and Mind) middle school afterschool programs by providing the infrastructure and staffing needed to ensure the program's long-term viability. Jorden has lead efforts to revitalize the Zach Gordon Youth Center to become a hub for youth services by expanding health and counseling services, especially for homeless youth and those who have experienced trauma. Jorden fosters a team approach with staff and community partners to ensure Juneau’s youth are supported and empowered.
An example of her commitment to youth empowerment, was when a teen came into the Center needing some fairly simple, but right-now services within the community. This teen had tried a number of things as a self-advocate without much response from a local resource. Jorden met with her team, and together they built a side-by-side (not taking over) plan for support. She used her relationships to bring change and response, and role-modeled to the teen real collaboration and self/team advocacy. Jorden is steadfast in leading the Juneau community forward to increase equity, access and resources for young people. Every decision and conversation that she's a part of comes from a love and respect for childhood and the potential of each young person.
Nominated by: Walter Majoros, Professional colleague; Becky Rush, ROCK Juneau; & Kirk Duncan, Supervisor, City and Borough of Juneau
Marilyn Eggleston - Joy Elementary 21st CCLC Coordinator
Fairbanks North Star Borough School District
Marilyn brings "Joy" to Joy's 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) afterschool program each and every day. Marilyn is a master at bringing laughter, excitement, and knowledge to everyone she meets and makes everyone feel welcome and valued. She supports her students’ personal and academic growth by ensuring her program provides an individualized approach to student learning and success. Not only does Marilyn serve as a role model for the students in her program, but also to other afterschool coordinators and staff from across the district. Marilyn is an avid learner and continues to share what she learns with others by providing exceptional professional development at her school site, throughout the school district, and statewide at the Alaska Afterschool Conference. Marilyn puts together the best family engagement opportunities at her school site and is a mentor to many new staff at the school whose job it is to build strong relationships with families.
Marilyn frequently goes beyond the expectations of her position to ensure students receive the support they need to thrive in and out of her afterschool program. She recently helped a student get all the necessary support and resources they needed after dealing with an extremely difficult family situation. She continues to touch base with this student to ensure he is well taken care of and that he is building skills to succeed in school and beyond. Marilyn made sure teachers know how he is doing and continues to connect him with what he needs outside of the school setting.
Nominated by: Julie Wild-Curry, Supervisor, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District
Brad Fidel - Science Instructor
Bureau of Land Management Campbell Creek Science Center
Brad loves connecting kids to Alaska’s wilderness through the Science Centers partnership with the Anchorage School District’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers. He makes personal connections with each of the students in the program and helps children know they have a home at the Science Center. He also makes learning about STEM concepts exciting, fun, and inclusive for all. He brings fun appropriate science jokes to his teaching, encourages hands-on learning about STEM concepts, and makes sure kids practice outdoor skills in a safe and enjoyable environment. He helps kids feel efficacy by having them practice skills independently and celebrating with them when they succeed (e.g., fire building, shelter building, team building). He encourages them to think about science principles and how they connect to the natural world. This gives meaning to school learning because it helps children understand that the principles they learn in school have practical application, and that they can become scientists through their curiosity, interest, and problem solving. He makes a point of getting to know children's interests and lets them know that an adult cares about them.
Nominated by: Nancy Patterson, Supervisor, Campbell Creek Science Center