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Students share messages of resilience

Marathon School PSA Resilience.mp3

"Knowing that Alaska has one of the highest rates of suicide rates in the nation, we can build our strengths to make us more resilient. …”

That’s a student at Marathon School in Kenai, the educational arm of the youth detention center. Students at the school recently completed a project drafting and recording public service announcements about resilience. That’s a topic they know a little something about.

“I just think that's really powerful because the students here, if there is a definition of resiliency out there, you know, they could be the poster kids for that. Because most of them have been through a lot and they continue to get up and show up. So I think the message coming from them has a lot of power behind it," said Jennifer Derks-Anderson, a teacher at Marathon School.

Derks-Anderson likes to bring in guest presenters and learning opportunities as much as possible, to give the students exposure to different people and ideas.

Creative Flow Collective is a nonprofit organization based in Anchorage that does outreach to youth detention facilities and treatment programs. They focus on embracing creativity and giving youth an opportunity to benefit their community. Lila Hobbs visited the school to help students draft and record the PSAs, which range from suicide prevention to smoking and vaping awareness and natural disaster preparedness. It was a quick three-day workshop but Hobbs says she’s impressed with how well the students embraced a new experience.

“The students that I'm working with might not necessarily feel like they always are having academic success … But then you have them learning audio and it's just totally different and they really shine and they like learning these new skills,” Hobbs said.

Derks-Anderson says the students took to different aspects of the project. Some were invested in writing and editing the PSAs. Others found audio editing program a little more fun and maybe a possible career path down the road.

“I think it was fun and different for them to try something new that they had control of. So they were like making silly noises and then trying to, like, do something with that and some kids were like, ‘Oh, I could lay down beats and then this could become this.’ I think all of them were interested in the Audacity program and some of them definitely could see uses for that beyond what we were doing,” Derks-Anderson said.

Marathon School Suicide Prevention PSA 2.mp3

They all needed to have a little resilience to get the project done, Hobbs says. Life can be chaotic for students who find themselves at Marathon.

“They’re able to produce despite all of the other things that are going on, you know, in the background of their life, and all of the other kind of outside noise about who they are and what they've been through. I think it's a really incredible thing for them to feel like they're doing something meaningful that they're really proud of,” Hobbs said.

And then there was the literal noise. The school doesn’t come equipped with a quiet recording studio, so students had to record around doors and footsteps and clanking trays in the cafeteria.

“So it was it was kind of comical. But I was like, ‘You know what? We're still doing it, despite all of these challenges going on.’ So I was really proud of them and they learned so much so quickly,” Hobbs said.

Marathon School Natural Disasters

They finished the project with a sharing session, between the students, Hobbs and school faculty, staff and administration.

“Usually what they're doing in the classroom doesn't go far beyond the classroom. So that was really exciting for them to be able to share that and then get that feedback,” Derks-Anderson said.

The finished PSAs will be airing on KDLL over the next month. Hobbs says sharing the PSAs gives students a chance to do something positive in the community.

“Oftentimes people think like, ‘Oh, it's kids in jail,’ and I would really challenge the community to get rid of that viewpoint," Hobbs said. "Because I think that if we are viewing them as that, it doesn't really create much space for them to ever view themselves as anything else. And see themselves in a new light and have energy to pursue a different path than what they were on.”

Jenny Neyman has been the general manager of KDLL since 2017. Before that she was a reporter and the Morning Edition host at KDLL.
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