PUBLISHED: 12:23 PM on Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Training center gives boost to education

Courtesy photo
  Above: Thomas Hughes of Juneau, pictured with his son, received a $1400 scholarship to continue earning a degree in civil engineering at University of Alaska Southeast.
Extending education beyond high school, the Vocational Training and Resource Center offers classes in various subjects such as first aid, truck driving and business.

The center opened in 1998 and is called "Hakaak Has Ka Hidi," or "Our Uncle's House."

"The uncle represents the one who educates the nephews," said Archie Cavanaugh, director of the center. "The idea of creating the center was the first time in history that people came together to plan the future of the tribe and the center came out as a priority."

A totem pole of the uncle stands in the lobby of the center.

"It gives honor to the uncle and stands as an example of the education and discipline he provided and what we provide for this facility," Cavanaugh said.

The center is overseen by the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida, but is open to the general public.

"We are open to anyone without regard to race, creed or ethnicity," Cavanaugh said. "There are no stereotypes about this facility."

While the center is offering more classes in subjects such as truck driving with classes in flagging and commercial driver's license training, Cavanaugh said he sees programs moving toward the health field.

In 2006, the center will offer classes in dental health.

"The more opportunities we provide for people for skills, makes them more employable," Cavanaugh said. "We're taking a special note to find gainful employment."

To allow more people to attend classes at VTRC, the center holds the annual Spring King Salmon Derby to raise funds for scholarships. The 30-day competition allows participants to fish whenever they have the time, said Leslie Isturis education specialist of VTRC.

Isturis said the center raised about $30,000 last year and gave away more scholarships than they were able in the past.

"The community is all involved," Isturis said. "It makes the kids really happy."