Although serious problems exist for the youth of Southeast Alaska in the areas of illegitimacy, alcoholism, drug abuse and teen suicide, there is reason to hope for the future. The Salvation Army is addressing these issues actively, not only in its own programming, but also through cooperative efforts with other agencies and organizations.
In addition to the Army’s corps programming these problems are addressed at Youth Councils, camp programs, Girl Guards and Adventure Corps. Great strides are being made with outreach to youth in the village corps, and the Army’s youth programs in Southeast are growing. Cooperative efforts are also underway with other agencies in Southeast to support youth programs. However, additional after-school, latchkey, tutoring and mentoring activities are needed. Local sports programs have also proven successful in keeping teens involved, and the communities of Hoonah and Klawock both have new recreational centers.
The tribal corporations are working to alleviate teen problems through their efforts to reawaken interest and a sense of pride in the native cultural heritage. From 1900 until 1960, Native youth were required to leave the villages at the age of 13 to attend schools outside Southeast Alaska. Although the practice ended some 30 years ago, it has resulted in a significant loss of cultural identity. Historically, The Salvation Army has included Native culture in its youth programming and continues to endorse this renewal of Native identity and cultural heritage.
While some villages in Southeast Alaska have experienced demographic changes due to economic factors and mill closures, the most significant departure from the area has been among whites. Native youth often leave the villages to seek opportunities for higher education, as the University of Alaska system has campuses only in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau.
Those young people who might wish to attend a Christian college or university must leave the state in order to do so. This trend, by necessity, takes the best and brightest youth out of Alaska, and they often do not return for many years. The Salvation Army in Alaska will continue to support and encourage young people who wish to remain in the state, and we will work with Native leaders toward that end.