The Alaska Native Heritage Center’s (ANHC) after-school program was nationally

The Alaska Native Heritage Center’s (ANHC) after-school program was nationally recognized as one of 18 youth arts and humanities programs to receive the prestigious 2008 Coming Up Taller Award. The after-school program focuses on teaching young people about their cultural heritage.

“We are honored to be recognized for our work that is preparing Native youth to be culturally competent. With the vitality of the Native culture as a foundation, our youth are showing the courage and ability to consciously create a better future for themselves, their family and the community,” said Jon Ross, ANHC president and chief executive officer and 2008 CIRI Shareholder of the Year.

Ross and program student Jay Rapoza received the award from First Lady Laura Bush in a Nov. 14 ceremony at the White House.

Many Alaska Native youth living in Anchorage have had few opportunities to connect with their heritage. Immersion in their cultural traditions helps these young people make sense of who they are and their place in the world. Participating in the program has enabled many young people to benefit academically and professionally as well. Those who complete 120 hours in the program receive a semester of high school credit. During the summer, the Heritage Center employs approximately 15 percent of the program’s participants as dancers, cultural interpreters and visitor service workers.

Coming Up Taller is an initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. The Coming Up Taller Awards recognize and support outstanding community arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America’s young people, and provide them with new learning opportunities and a chance to contribute to their communities.