For the last 35 years, the University of Alaska Fairbanks in collaboration with the Alaska Federation of Natives has held a six-week summer program to help Alaska Native and rural students adjust academically and socially to college life.
Concerns for the high dropout rates for students of this demographic were the impetus of the program.
Applicants to the program go through a rigorous vetting process that includes providing two essays, transcripts, test scores, three letters of recommendation, and a biography.
If the applicant is accepted, the student receives a scholarship to cover all expenses.
The Rural Alaska Honor Institute, or RAHI, has a comprehensive curriculum that includes hands-on learning and community involvement.
We spoke to Vice Chancellor of Rural Community and Native Education, Evon Peter last year about how the program can help with the transition between living in a rural community and living in a more populated area.
"It's a huge cultural gap growing up in a small tribal community in rural Alaska, and then shifting into a dorm that has a population that is larger than your village and a completely different cultural context - people that you don't know verses people that you've grown up with and have known your entire life. And so there's a huge culture shock element, I think, that's experienced by the young people who make that transition into urban Alaskans."
As part of the comprehensive curriculum, RAHI provides a physical fitness aspect. Students can choose to hike, take classes in Martial Arts, or learn Native dance. But for the Midnight Sun Run, the race is mandatory.
RAHI student, Dalton Macar doesn't mind the mandatory status of the race. He enjoys his classes, and the opportunity to challenge himself in the 6.2 mile race.
"I really wanted to get out, and Fairbanks seems like a lot more fun than a little dirt road town. So, the classes are great, the town's great. It's kind of fun here. It is mandatory for RAHI students to go out, but I even if it wasn't mandatory I'd still think I'd want to do it, because I try to run every morning for one maybe two miles, so 10 kilometers is a good limit pusher for me. I'm getting kind of pumped up about it."
Since the RAHI program started in 1983, over 1800 students have graduated from the program. And since their graduation the RAHI program has produced two medical doctors, seven doctors in other medical fields, 8 law degrees, four PhD's, one certified public accountant, hundreds of bachelors degrees and 111 Master's degrees.
For more information on RAHI, visit www.uaf.edu/rahi