Northwest Arctic Borough School District's Teck John Baker Youth Leaders program addresses an urgent problem: The suicide rate for the district's students. Youth Leaders are taught that they are the school elders and are responsible for all of their classmates. - Photo Provided

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School District wins 2013 Magna Award

June 14th, 2013 | Michelle Woods Print this article   Email this article  

The Northwest Arctic Borough School District's Teck-John Baker Youth Leaders Program was honored and presented as first place winners for 2013 Magna Award in the under 5,000 students enrollment category. The Magna Award is a national recognition program co-sponsored by American School Board Journal, the National School Boards Association, and Sodexo that honors school board best practices and innovative programs that advance student learning.

The Magna Awards recognize school districts across the country for outstanding programs that advance student learning and encourage community involvement in schools.

"The Magna Awards showcase the great work going on in local school districts across the country to increase student achievement and success," said Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director of National School Boards Association. "This year's Magna Awards recipients are national models that school leaders can learn from."

The Magna Awards 2013 honoree?were celebrated at th?Best Practices for School Leaders Luncheon on April 13 at the San Diego Convention Center, during NSBA's 73rd Annual Conference, wher?attendees learne?about leadership and district best practices with the winners of the 2013 Magna Awards.

Northwest Arctic Borough School District is the first in Alaska to ever receive this National Award.

For more information, you can visit the American School Board Journal website at:

About the Youth Leaders program

Northwest Arctic's Teck John Baker Youth Leaders program addresses an urgent problem: The suicide rate for the district's students — 93 percent of whom are Inupiaq Eskimo — was twice the rate of non-native Alaskans and four times the rate of non-native U.S. teens.

The school board decided to deal with the significant social ills its students faced. Rather than hiring short-term staff, the board invested money in leadership training and development for students. Youth Leaders are taught that they are the school elders and are responsible for all of their classmates.

The program builds social and behavior management skills and sets social norms through classroom presentations and behavior modification techniques. Students seek to improve their schools and work with principals and staff members to address site-based issues.


The most significant result is fewer students have committed suicide. When the program began five years ago, the district averaged eight student suicides per year. For the third straight year, there have been no student suicides in the region.

Youth Leaders are connecting every student to their school. Staff members report a reduction in bullying and incidents of violence. The Youth Leaders are living examples of the district's mission to "lead the way," as they have become change agents in their schools and villages as well as in the state.

The School Board's involvement

The School Board took great risks in allowing its administration to create a program with the potential to backfire. It exercised confidence in the administration and in the staff who coordinate the program, which has had positive results and shows promise.

The board continues to support the program through funding and decision-making opportunities for the Youth Leaders. Every month, a Youth Leader sits on the Regional School Board and provides input into the district's decision making and direction. The board networks around the state and has allowed the program coordinator to assist other districts in starting their own Youth Leader programs.

For more information, contact Youth Leader Coordinator, Michelle Woods at or visit the Web site at


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