GCI grant supports Covenant House suicide prevention efforts

October 3, 2017

GCI Suicide Prevention Grant funds nine programs across Alaska Covenant House supports at-risk youth with culturally-based activities

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Covenant House Alaska, with support from the GCI Suicide Prevention Grant, is using cultural activities to reduce high rates of suicide by helping homeless Alaska Native youth feel more connected to their roots through Southcentral Foundation’s Denaa Yeets’ program.

The Denaa Yeets’ program uses a variety of cultural activities to support both Alaska Native and non-Alaska Native youth who have thoughts of self-harm and those who may be at risk of self-harm. The program nurtures an open atmosphere that builds relationships between the staff and youth.

“Just being homeless puts youth at a higher risk, so we need to lower those risk factors as much as we can, and that’s why we use culture the way we do as a way of connecting with the youth,” said Maesha Champion-Read, clinician, Denaa Yeets’ program. “We might go berry picking or gather fiddlehead ferns; we’ve gone to fish camp; we sew kuspuks, traditional Native attire. They see fish hanging out in the yard drying and it reminds them of home.”

“Our goal is to eliminate suicide and we believe one of the ways we can do that is by acknowledging and celebrating our traditional cultures. It’s been really special, but there’s no way we could have done all of this without that grant.”

Funded through a $100,000 donation, the GCI Suicide Prevention Grant has a broad criteria to empower Alaskans to propose solutions that would work in their community. More than 40 organizations applied for funding, and GCI, with the help of the Alaska Community Foundation, awarded grants to nine Alaska organizations. 

“Supporting at-risk youth in one of Alaska’s most vulnerable populations is incredibly important,” said Maureen Moore, GCI’s chief customer experience officer and Covenant House Alaska board member. “Because of the emphasis on cultural activities, tradition and values, we know our contribution will enable the Denaa Yeets’ program to become even more effective and expand its important work with at-risk Alaska Native youth.”

Covenant House Alaska received $15,000 through the GCI Suicide Prevention Grant to continue building the Denaa Yeets’ program.

According to the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council, Alaska Native men between the ages of 15-24 have the highest rate of suicide among any demographic in the country; Alaska Native males between 13-20 comprise the largest demographic served by Covenant House Alaska.

“Covenant House’s partnership with Southcentral Foundation’s Deena Yeets’ program is changing the lives of high-risk Alaska Native youth,” said Katie St. John, director of programs and grants, Alaska Community Foundation. “Through culturally relevant, engaging activities, program staff are able to develop meaningful relationships with participants beyond what is possible in a more clinical setting. This program takes these kids out of their normal setting, to a place where they can reconnect with their culture and ultimately grow stronger.”

In FY2016, Covenant House Alaska served more than 2,000 youth, 52 percent of whom were Alaska Native. CHA says many of these youth migrate from rural Alaska and lack a safety net in Anchorage, resulting in high-risk situations including homelessness, trafficking or exploitation.

Eight other programs received funding through the GCI Suicide Prevention Grant, including: the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Alaska Child & Family, Perseverance Theatre, Wellspring Revival Ministries, Juneau Youth Services, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, the Native Village of Paimiut and the Native Village of Tununak.

Click here to watch a video about Covenant House Alaska’s Denaa Yeets’ program.

About GCI

GCI delivers communication and technology services in the consumer and business markets. Headquartered in Alaska with additional locations in the U.S., GCI has delivered services for more than 35 years to some of the most remote communities and in some of the most challenging conditions in North America. Learn more about GCI at http://www.gci.com

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