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Ilakucaraq Year-Long Cohorts

Our Cohort program connects urban and rural Indigenous students from diverse cultures to foster positive identity development and achievement, build supportive networks of peers, and nurture the next generation of Native leaders who honor and steward Alaska Native cultures.

Through this program, participants attend one 5-day immersion during their first summer in the program, stay connected with their cohort through virtual sessions throughout the school year, and attend a second immersion the following summer. Each cohort attends one trip in an urban community and one trip in a rural community.

Summer 2022: Cohorts 1-3 included 42 Alaska Native students from across the state. Cohorts traveled to Kodiak, Bethel, or Kenai for their rural immersions.

Summer 2023: Cohorts 1-3 traveled to Juneau for their urban immersions. They stayed in UAS dorms, visited Sealaska Heritage Institute, made cedar bracelets, and explored downtown Juneau, among other activities. An additional 38 students were selected to be part of cohorts 4-6. These new cohorts traveled to Anchorage for their urban immersions.

Summer 2024: Cohorts 4-6 will travel to Utqiagvik, Kotzebue, or Dillingham for their rural immersions. Each cohort will be accompanied by two Alumni Leaders, graduates from cohorts 1-3 who want to serve in leadership roles.

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[My understanding of Alaska Native cultures and communities is] different now because I've been able to see what the culture means to different people. Alaska Native culture is so much more diverse and important to me than it was before. - Youth participant after Ilakucaraq immersion


Helen John

Youth Program Manager
Email Contact

Ilakucaraq Cohort Eligibility

  • Open to all Alaska Native youth currently in grades 8-11 interested in connecting with Alaska Native cultures. Youth must be at least 13 years old at the start of the program.

  • Rural and urban youth are encouraged to apply. Internet service and a computer provided for participants who would otherwise not be able to participate in parts of the programming.

  • If selected, youth must commit to participating for the entire cohort: one week of travel in summer 2023, one week of travel in summer 2024, and at least 1 virtual session per month during the school year. 

  • Please note that youth should be comfortable with traveling independently because some travel segments may be done on their own.

The application period for 2023-2024 IP Cohorts is closed, we are no longer accepting applications for this time period. Ilakucaraq's current grant cycle ends Fall 2024. We have applied for another grant, and if awarded, the next round of cohort applications will open in Spring 2025 for Summer 2025 travel.

    Ilakucaraq Alumni Leaders

    Applications for Ilakucaraq Alumni Leaders is now closed, we are no longer accepting applicants.

    Alumni Leaders Eligibility

    • Completed a 2022-2023 Ilakucaraq cohort as an engaged and active participant

    • Age 14 or older by May 29, 2024

    • Interested in developing and practicing leadership skills

    • Willingness to share personal stories and experiences

    • Demonstrated initiative and independence during your cohort

      What to Expect

      IP Cohorts are youth developmental and experiential learning programs that bring rural and urban Alaska Native youth together to explore their heritages, share their cultures, and find strength in being Indigenous. Each cohort starts and ends with a week-long immersion trip in two different Alaskan communities. Cohorts participate in virtual sessions between the immersions.

      Bethel - Danielle Craven, students and dry fish

      Example Day During Immersion

      7:30am Wake Up


      Morning Activities - Examples include learning more about yourself through guided self-reflection activities, visiting a museum, or sharing stories about what life is like in your hometown


      Afternoon Activities - Examples include participating in a culture camp with local youth, going tidepooling or hiking, or learning from a local culture bearer


      Evening Activities - Examples include group games like charades, playing basketball or going to the swimming pool, or hanging out around a campfire

      10:00pm Lights Out

      Connect with self

      Reflect on what influences your identity and try new things to better understand yourself. This self awareness opens the door for personal growth, leading to increased confidence and ability to step outside your comfort zone.

      Connect with others

      Develop meaningful relationships with cohort peers, immersion communities, and Culture Bearers that extend beyond the program. These connections strengthen your support network, build friendships, and deepen your respect for people different from yourself.

      Kenai Kids
      DSCF0867 1

      Connect with cultures

      Share your own culture and learn about the cultures of others, discovering how culture shapes who you are. Consider what it means to be Indigenous in different settings and embrace your culture and community as a source of strength.

      Frequently asked questions

      Application & Selection Process

      1. Do I have to complete the application all at once?

        1. We can’t guarantee that if you start the application and leave that it will be saved. Please try to submit the application in one sitting. You may answer the short answer prompts in a separate document, save them, and copy and paste them into the application when you are ready to answer the other application questions.

      1. What happens after I submit my application?
        1. A team member will be giving you a phone call to learn more about your interest in the program and answer any questions. So please answer the phone even if you do not recognize the number, check your messages, and call our team back if we leave a message. If we don’t talk to you by phone, your application will no longer be considered.

      2. How soon will we know if we are accepted into the program?
        1. We will be making decisions about enrollment and reaching out to all who applied in mid-April about their acceptance status to let everyone know if they have been accepted, put on our waitlist, or not accepted.

      3. How will I be contacted?
        1. Our team uses email, text, and phone calls depending on what we are contacting you about. It’s important to provide a personal email address that you have access to over the summer since we will be sending trip information like flight arrangements and other important documents via email. We use texts to share regular announcements and session reminders, and phone calls for quick follow-ups!

      General Program

      1. Who can apply?
        1. Ilakucaraq youth programs are open to all Alaska Native high school students located anywhere in Alaska. Both rural and urban students are encouraged to participate.

      2. How much does this program cost?
        1. Our program is offered at no cost to participants and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education Alaska Native Education Department.

      3. I am currently a senior in high school, will I be accepted into this program?
        1. Since this is a year-long program, participants shouldn’t be past their junior year in high school at the time of applying so on their second immersion they are recently graduated or still in high school. If you are interested in this type of program but don’t fit into the program requirements, please look into other Alaska Native Heritage Center and Alaska Humanities Forum programming. This information can be found on their respective websites and social media pages.

      4. What is an immersion?
        1. The Forum uses the word immersion to describe an intensive trip. In this case, students are deeply diving into reflection about who they are, their culture, where they come from, and learning about other people and cultures.

      5. What is a cohort?
        1. We use the word cohort to describe our groups of students. We have 3 different cohorts with each having a different set of 15 students. Each cohort builds unique relationships within each other, they keep in touch throughout the school year through virtual sessions, and they see each other again in person the following summer.

      6. What is the time commitment for this program?
        1. The program spans a full year from summer 2023 to summer 2024. The time commitment for summer 2023 is one 5-day, 4-night immersion trip. During the 2023-2024 school year, students will participate in 2-4 hours of virtual programs each month to stay connected with each other and continue learning from culture bearers. Students will go on a second 5-day, 4-night trip in summer 2024. Depending on where students live and flight schedules, some students may need to travel a day earlier and/or stay an extra night in order to be with the rest of the group for the full time. Program staff will chaperone students who need to arrive earlier or stay later.

      7. Do I need to have Internet access to participate?
        1. No, we have funding to provide internet to those who currently don’t have access to the internet at home. Monthly virtual session participation on Zoom is required!

      Travel & Immersion

      1. Will I have a roommate on the trip?
        1. Yes! Most of the time students will be sharing a room with 1-3 people depending on the room set up. Each student will have their own bed to themselves.

      2. I have never flown alone, and I live in a rural community. Will a staff member be meeting me in a hub?
        1. No - our staff will meet you at the Anchorage airport. When you land in the hub, you should head to the Alaska Airlines airport to check-in for your flight to Anchorage. Families are responsible for coordinating your transportation from one airport to the next until you get to Anchorage. It’s a good idea to have a family member/friend meet you at the airport to help with that.

      3. How many students are on each trip?
        1. Each cohort should have 15 students.

      4. How many staff members are on each trip? Who are the staff members?
        1. We plan to have 4 staff members on each trip. All staff are from Alaska and will be a mix of Native and non-Native staff who have lots of experience working with youth. All staff members have extensive background checks, and are trained in CPR, mental health first aid, mandatory reporting and more!

      5. What does a normal day on an immersion look like?
        1. 7:30am Wake Up

        2. BREAKFAST

        3. Morning Activities - Examples include learning more about yourself through guided self-reflection activities, visiting a museum, or sharing stories about what life is like in your hometown

        4. LUNCH

        5. Afternoon Activities - Examples include participating in a culture camp with local youth, going tide-pooling, hiking, or learning from a local culture bearer

        6. DINNER

        7. Evening Activities - Examples include group games like charades, playing basketball or going to the swimming pool, or hanging out around a campfire

        8. 10:00pm Lights Out

      What about COVID?

      1. What COVID-19 precautions are you taking?
        1. Following the latest COVID-19 recommendations from the CDC and local health officials in the community where the event is taking place

        2. Program staff are up-to-date on their vaccinations

        3. Encourage participants to be up-to-date on their vaccinations

        4. Pre-travel and Day 1 rapid testing

        5. Pre-travel and daily symptom screening

        6. Rapid testing for participants, staff, and guests who have any COVID-19 symptoms

        7. If someone tests positive within the group, indoor N95/KN95 masking will be required of everyone in the group and rapid tests will be administered daily. The person who tests positive will be isolated from the group.

        8. Create a welcoming environment for individuals who choose to wear masks or not. Wearing a mask or not does not indicate whether someone is vaccinated or unvaccinated.

        9. N95/KN95 masks may be required for specific activities (such as when interacting with an elder and when traveling on an airplane)

        10. Provide rapid tests and N95/KN95 masks for participants, staff, and guests

      2. What happens if my child tests positive for COVID-19?
        1. If a student tests positive for COVID while traveling with IP, they will be isolated from the group. AKHF will ask a parent/guardian to travel to the youth event location to chaperone. AKHF does not guarantee that it will provide financial assistance to reimburse parent/guardian travel expenses or to fund housing and meals for isolation in excess of the youth event’s scheduled duration. However, funding may be available on a case-by-case basis. AKHF will follow CDC guidelines for isolation which require that a person isolate for at least 5 days, with the positive test date counting as “Day 0.”

      3. Are there any circumstances when an in-person event or trip would be canceled?
        1. We will do our best to ensure events can happen and be as safe as possible for everyone involved. However, if local health officials and/or people in the community where the event is to take place are concerned about holding an in-person event, then the event will be canceled, rescheduled, or held virtually.

      This project is a partnership between the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the Alaska Humanities Forum, and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Alaska Native Education Program.

      If you have any questions about our program, or would like to be added to our contact list, please email us at or call (907)717-1256.

      Alaska Humanities Forum

      The Alaska Humanities Forum is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that designs and facilitates experiences to bridge distance and difference – programming that shares and preserves the stories of people and places across our vast state, and explores what it means to be Alaskan.

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