RFT goes North to Alaska in 2005. . .

So the students can head south to San Diego




Map of Alaskan Boroughs (Counties)

It’s June 7th and the high for the day is 32 ◦F. There are no heated or indoor pools so you learn to swim in the Arctic Ocean (of course without a wet suit). When the caribou herd starts its migration in the fall you stop going to class so you and your family can hunt and pack the meat for the winter. The males hunt and the females prepare the meat and the hides. You become an expert marksman before age 10 and drive a snowmobile at 70 miles an hour without having a driver’s license. Since there are no dairy cows, traditional Eskimo “ice cream” or akutaq (pronounced “a-goodik”) is a concoction of various animal fats, fish, and wild berries. The current politics in Kivalina, AK revolve around relocating the entire community to higher ground, as the sea is rising so fast that the entire town will soon be underwater! Wonder if this is a real life example of global warming…!

The Northwest Arctic Borough is roughly the same size as Indiana with an estimated population of 7,500 or slightly more than 1% of the entire state. For the week of July 7th through July 13th 2005, thirty-five middle school and early high school students from Kotzebue, Noatak, Selawik, Kivalina who were part of the GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) program were selected to spend the week at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). For most this was their first experience outside Alaska and for some outside their local villages.

reachlogo1Each student completed at least 25 or more hours of community service, passed a local interview with teachers and administrators, and had room for improvement in school. The idea of Reach For Tomorrow (RFT) is to improve the attitude, attendance, and achievement of rising high school students by exposing them to opportunities for future careers through higher education. GEAR UP students visited NAS North Island where they learned about the duties of the Homeland Security Marine and Air Branch.

1000-HP-per-boat   DHL-Marine-Branch


The group watched law enforcement officers securing our borders in the air and on the sea. These are career fields not generally known by the public and offer an expanded venue for each young person. While on Coronado the group toured the Navy Depot to see civilian workers rebuilding and repairing Navy airplanes using a wide variety of the latest high tech equipment.

reachlogo1Students lived in college dorms, ate meals at the Canyon Vista dining facility, and attended a wide variety of academic labs whose roots are formulated in high school. Artificial intelligence enabled students to see computers outside of word processing and gaming uses. Upon arrival students began their week with a visit from the “Mad Scientists” from the San Diego Science Alliance who brought basic chemistry to each young mind.

Through the week, the group attended UCSD physics labs where they experienced a number of different subsets including: making 2 minute ice cream



Note the small light emitting diodes on the white RFT T-Shirts; exploring static electricity and Optics;


soldering light emitting diodes
learning to Solder
making light emitting diodes
hard work at physics lab
reachlogo1The UCSD Earthquake Lab allowed students to see how buildings in active seismic environments must be planned and constructed. Each student team had the chance to build their own “structure” and then subject it to the “shake table” to determine if their design would withstand various earthquake levels-  





reachlogo1Off campus the group visited the Sea Camp Marine Science Lab at La Jolla Shores to view micro organisms through microscopes and then don wet suits to swim with the leopard sharks and other aquatic life found off shore in the Pacific Ocean.



RFT was concerned that the lack of pools in the small villages in the Northwest Arctic Borough would not yield many swimmers among the students. Not to worry! These students actively swim in rivers and the Arctic Ocean- and everyone had a rubber suit and plenty of supervision just in case-



reachlogo1This program is designed to motivate all students to take the tough math and science classes in high school so that each participant is competitive for the best colleges. The world of aviation is filled with practical and fun examples of algebra one, chemistry, physics, and physiology. Each student and adult chaperon had the chance to pilot a small plane and attend ground school with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) as a part of their Young Eagles program. The group traveled to Brown Field close to the Mexican border to spend a half day with some aviation pioneers-




Each year adults, especially teachers, ask about something called “down time” on RFT programs. The response is always the same- if you want down time stay home. The chaperons get free time between 11 PM and 6 AM each day. This means they have to be creative to find some space for themselves during the day.  

Northwest Arctic Borough team leader Oral Hawley was able to find some time for himself during the flight activities.



The adults had a chance to fly as well as the students

reachlogo1The San Diego Fire Department cooperated by allowing RFT students to don their gear and complete their obstacle course training in a completely blacked out environment as well as travel from building to building on zip wires


The students Team work and confidence are essential elements for success in industry, so each student completed the confidence course at UCSD





The day is broken into three distinct blocks- morning activities and labs, afternoon activities and labs, evening speakers and athletics. Speakers come from various sectors including the military, college admissions, and business leaders.

A favorite is the visit of former Navy Blue Angel Dave Inman to talk about demonstration flying and preparing for life-   Dave-Inman

The evening is a time for mentoring by adult leaders, such as Kotzebue High School principal Dave Mason-

reachlogo1In keeping with RFT’s attempt to bring the unusual to the forefront, student athletics included the Brazilian martial arts sport of Capoiera  http://www.kyo-rioku.co.uk/capoiera.htm
, basketball , hip hop dance, attending the Seadogs professional baseball game - note RFT students in the outfield with players for the National Anthem), rock climbing.


Kapoleta-1   Kapoleta-2
Kapoleta-3   Kapoleta4


Hip Hop Dance

Evening-Sports Hipp-Hopp





Rock Climbing



reachlogo1The USS Midway, a former active duty aircraft carrier, served as a perfect location to expose students tolife at sea as an aviator and crew member.  RFT is not a recruiting program for the military, but it does try and use existing resources already funded by the American people to expose youth to opportunities for education and training. RFT’s “no excuses” mantra is echoed throughout the week, so all participants get to experience potential future careers attainable through higher education.


reachlogo1The First Aid and CPR training course permits each RFT student to leave for home with their basic course completion certificate and card-


reachlogo1Since sponsors and RFT like to know how this week impacts students, each is asked to complete a pre and post survey using the online format at the RFT web site. Before students departed for home, they spent time in the computer lab with post assessments-   RFT-Students-assessment
These results are posted on the RFT Site Map for pre and post trip. The students wrote their own assessment after their day at the UCSD Confidence Course-



RFT was excited to offer this program for such an outstanding group of young Americans in 2005. With its academic enrichment program approved in Alaska for 2006-2007 RFT is able to impact youth throughout an entire year.

The people from Northwest Arctic are Inupiat, and their Values taught to every child are:

Knowledge of Language
Knowledge of Family Tree
Respect for Others
Love of Children
Hard Work
Respect for Elders
Respect for Nature
Avoid Conflict
Family Roles
Domestic Skills
Hunter Success
Responsibility to Tribe