With its mission of building strong foundations with Alaska Native families through Alaska Native cultures and education, Cook Inlet Native Head Start (CINHS) provides children 6 weeks through 5 years of age a supportive, hands-on learning environment.
CINHS encourages a learning-by-doing atmosphere. Teachers instill in children independence, self-confidence and social skills, and students’ needs are met in the areas of cognitive, emotional, language, physical and social development. Thanks to an Esther Martinez Immersion grant awarded by the Administration for Native Americans, Cook Inlet Tribal Council partnered with CINHS to bring Yup’ik language classes to children ages 3 to 5.
CIRI shareholder Charlene Apok’s son, who is entering kindergarten, attended CINHS. “At Head Start, he was around Native language, he was around Native culture,” she enthused. “In the room he was in, they had dance fans, they had furs, they had the alphabet paired with words like ‘ulu’ and ‘salmon.’ Even just the difference of the space he learned in was so important. He can sing songs in Yup’ik. He came home one day and was talking about his ancestors. It’s just a different framing. I work to instill Alaska Native culture and values at home, but to have had it carry over and be reinforced like it was at Head Start is amazing.”
A nonprofit organization that initially began under Southcentral Foundation, CINHS was incorporated in 2009. Although CINHA has evolved into an independent organization, it remains closely tied to SCF, upon which it relies for a significant amount of in-kind services. Tribal designation was and continues to be granted to CINHS through CIRI, with Greg Razo, CIRI vice president, government relations, serving on the board of CINHS.
CINHS currently serves 227 students in Southcentral Alaska, including 194 Head Start students (3 to 5 years) and 33 Early Head Start students (6 weeks to 3 years). Only eight of the current Early Head Start students are enrolled in center-based programming; the rest are home based.
Construction began in fall 2019 on a 17,000-square-foot, eight-classroom facility near 16th Avenue and C Street in Anchorage. Funding for the new facility was provided through two grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Head Start: One grant added 32 slots for Early Head Start students and the other changed slots from part-day classes to full day. The new facility is due to open in November. In addition to the Early Head Start slots, four additional Early Head Start classes will be added, bringing enrollment up to 259.
For more information, including an enrollment application, visit cookinletnativeheadstart.net.