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  • Laura Ekada

Laura's Biology Capstone Written Report

Laura Ekada's biology capstone is titled "Value of Reclaiming Culture for Wellness: Perspectives from Youth in Rural Alaska".

This research was presented at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists on November 10th, 2022.

Abstract:

Alaska Native (AN) people have experienced cultural assimilation and generational trauma caused by colonization. Today, AN youth experience many negative health outcomes, including behavioral, mental health, and physical health challenges. Culturally relevant intervention programs can provide AN youth with mentors, a connection to their culture, and a form of expression. The Intergenerational Dialogue Exchange and Action (IDEA) was designed to connect AN youth with local role models in the classroom, help them reflect on films and stories illustrating themes of resilience and culture, and allow them the opportunity to create digital stories about their lives.The objective of this study was to determine how youth in rural Alaska perceive their Native culture and how the IDEA program affects wellness and connection to culture for AN youth in rural Alaska. We conducted community-based participatory research with one rural hub community in Alaska. We worked with two teachers from the high school to integrate the IDEA program into classroom activities in their Inupiaq Studies and Music courses. Students reflected on culturally relevant films, had in-person and virtual classroom visits from community role models, and created digital stories. Twenty-two youth (91% of whom were Alaska Native) shared their perspectives on the program through online surveys. A codebook was made from emerging themes in the survey responses. Analysis of survey responses showed that after the IDEA program some youth stated they felt more comfortable sharing their feelings and asking for help. Youth discussed how the IDEA program helped them learn more about their own identity, skills, and culture.Many youth reported the program increased their connection to their culture and increased positive intergenerational relationships. They appreciated the stories roles models shared, learned about their lives, and learned they were not alone. Some felt inspired to themselves to be role models and pass culture on to younger generations. The IDEA program can increase positive health outcomes for AN youth in rural Alaska. Culturally relevant intervention programs that are integrated into schools can improve resilience and increase healthy behaviors for rural AN youth. More programs like these can decrease the health disparities that affect Alaska Native people. Engaging youth-serving community agencies in such efforts would also be helpful to further expand program effects and facilitate greater school-community connections aimed toward the common goal of youth wellness.

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE

Ekada Capstone Written Report
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