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Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School Welcomes ANCCS With Open Arms

Native Blessing at East High Native Elders Lucy Brown, left, and Agnes Baptiste lead a cleanse and blessing ceremony for the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School at Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Robert DeBerry/ASD)

It has been a long time coming for the Anchorage School District’s Alaska Native Cultural Charter School, where they were recently welcomed into a section of The Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School.

ANCCS and ASD personnel worked diligently before spring break to make the move possible and welcome students back into the classroom for the start of the fourth quarter on March 15. “I can’t say enough good things and gratitude for how hard everyone has worked to make this possible,” said ANCCS Principal Sheila Sweetsir. “We had three days to move a whole school and they came in and swiftly packed us up and made it happen.”

The next step, said Sweetsir, is to make it work smoothly for the students and staff for the remainder of the school year and through next year. The new location only has 14 classrooms and ANCCS has 15 teachers.

“We have combined our second-grade classes and our preschool is going to be over at Mountain View Elementary,” she said. “It is not as big of a space, but we will do the best that we can with what we have.”

Moving in to classroom ANCCS second grade teacher Kimberly Martin works at unpacking and organizing her classroom at Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School Wednesday, March 03, 2021. (Robert DeBerry/ASD)

Sweetsir said there were some reservations from parents when the process started, and the school sent out a survey in hopes to address those concerns. With the surveys completed Sweetsir will be able to ease those concerns when she meets with parents on March 4, during an informational meeting.

Native Blessing Lucy Brown leads the Native blessing and cleanse ceremony Wednesday morning at Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School. (Robert DeBerry/ASD)

East is also no stranger to Native culture. Their Elitnaurvik Within East is a program that was established in 1987. It is a school-within-a-school supplementing the traditional curriculum and offering alternative classes for Native students. EWE incorporated Native values and issues, and successfully addresses different learning styles in its activities, course offerings, and work components.

With most of the move complete the next step was the blessing to bring in “good energy and to bring our positive self with good intentions” to the building, said Sweetsir.

That piece was handled by Native Elders Agnes Baptiste and Lucy Brown during a ceremony Wednesday morning. Using bird feathers, the duo and those gathered gave thanks, blessed and cleansed the building for the coming year and the return of students.

“ANCCS will be a part of East. It’s truly an honor to be a part of the East High School team,” said Brown as she led the ceremony in the East High hallway in front of the stained glass. “You all are now a team and will work together and move forward.”

Sweetsir said it couldn’t be better under the circumstances. “We are here, and it feels really welcoming. I am excited”

Lucy Brown and Agnes Baptiste Lucy Brown, right, and Agnes Baptiste said they were honored to be invited to lead the blessing and cleanse. Both said they have fond memories of East High School and the Elitnaurvik Within East. That program, established in 1987, provided for over 300 Alaskan Native and Native American Indian students at East Anchorage High School. It was a school-within-a-school supplementing the traditional curriculum, offering alternative classes for Native students. EWE incorporated Native values and issues, and successfully addresses different learning styles in its activities, course offerings, and work components. (Robert DeBerry/ASD)