Celebrating our youth, our future, and our history
Eight years ago, the Johnson-O’Malley Education Program (JOM) had just enough volunteers — 15 — at its annual election meeting to fulfill a quorum. Today, this life-changing program has regular meetings and graduation celebrations and has made a positive difference in the lives of dozens of students.
JOM is a supportive education program designed to meet the unique needs of Alaska Native students. The goal of the program is simple: equip Alaska Native students to achieve academic success through whatever support JOM can provide. JOM provides after-school tutoring for Alaska Native students in select schools and is one of the main supporters of Native Youth Olympics.
Every year, JOM hosts a celebration for graduating Alaska Native high school seniors and their families; students who are moving from one grade to the next also join in on the festivities. The celebration is paired with JOM’s annual parents’ meeting, during which new JOM board members are elected.
One of the main efforts the board undertakes each year is conducting a parent survey, which serves as a needs assessment. Two key items parents consistently report wanting to see more of for their students is increased academic support for Alaska Native students and greater emphasis on culture in Anchorage School District (ASD) schools.
That support comes in a variety of forms. Students can apply for funds to pay for anything from school supplies to technology like the graphing calculators high schoolers need for higher math; graduation regalia; instruments; sports fees; bus passes to get to ASD schools or to after-school programs; or tuition for online classes. Individual students can receive a maximum of $300 in support for the academic year.
High school senior, and soon to be graduate of Bettye Davis East High School, Terrence Long let the tears flow as he thanked volunteers, coordinators, and directors from the Johnson O’Malley Program (JOM) at this year’s graduation ceremony for the difference the program made in his life. The JOM program purchased a viola for Terrence, which he gave credit for providing him with a creative and supportive outlet, especially during the last few years. He also credited the program with helping him stay in touch with his Alaska Native heritage, including providing support for him to learn his native language.
The JOM program purchased a viola for Terrence, which he gave credit for providing him with a creative and supportive outlet, especially during the last few years. He also credited the program with helping him stay in touch with his Alaska Native heritage, to include ensuring that he can speak his native language.
JOM also recognizes seniors who are graduating with teal-colored cords they can wear at their graduation ceremonies.
Attendees at the 2022 JOM Graduation Celebration and Parent meeting enjoyed music and dance from two Alaska Native dance groups, sandwiches and cake, and good company.