Culture Inside — and Outside — the Classroom

Job Coach Arthur Yang picks blueberries in Hatcher Pass. Activities like berry-picking help reconnect people to their culture, Arthur said.

At CITC, it’s not all work and no play! Each week, the Peer Group hosted by Job Coaches Marlene Adams and Arthur Yang works on developing their careers through networking, discussion, projects, and activities.

But sometimes the group ventures outside the classroom — like on August 5, when the sunshine, good weather, and promise of blueberries took the class to Hatcher Pass for berry-picking.

Job Coach Marlene Adams (front) and Peer Group participant Diane pick berries.

Four members of the Work First Peer Group joined Arthur, Marlene, and Office Manager Sharron Martin for a day trip to Hatcher Pass, where they grabbed their bear spray and berry buckets and hiked into the bushes to harvest blueberries. Berry-picking is just one of the cultural activities Peer Group members engage in with CITC support.

“We tie culture into the classroom in most of our discussions,” Arthur said. “The people in the group suggested we do some field trips so we could connect with Alaska Native culture in a real way, in a real environment. It gives us a chance to engage with each other in a natural way. We share stories and memories while we pick berries, and that makes our culture come alive to us.”

“I’ve never been berry-picking before,” remarked Diane, a Peer Group member who grew up in Anchorage but whose family hails originally from Chevak. With the berries she gathered, she planned to have her mother teach her to make agutuk. “She makes it with mashed potatoes and a little fat,” Diane said.

One participant uses a berry-picker.

While they picked, the group compared their own versions of agutuk — some made it with fish oil, some with Crisco. They talked about the day’s perfect weather, reminisced about berry-picking as children, and made plans for future outings; they’ll be picking vegetables later this month, and Marlene and Arthur hope to take the group fishing soon.

Many of CITC’s peer-to-peer programs offer cultural outings in addition to regular program activities. Check with your program, job coach, or case manager to find out about cultural opportunities with CITC! You can also take a look at our calendar to see upcoming cultural activities.

Berry-picking leaves its mark, in more than one way!