The Tutit Ininat Child Development Center was officially reopened when Casey Ford cut the red ribbon with Kawerak Board Chairman Frank Katchatag at the Grand Reopening Ceremony on September 23. Casey was appropriately chosen as the student to cut the ribbon as the oldest child in the program who had been in the program since infancy. Kawerak Head Start, Early Head Start and Childcare Partnership invited the community, families, funders and remodel supporters to celebrate the completed expansion.

There was so much to celebrate as the new facility was a long-term process. The project began in 2015 when grant funds were received for the project, followed by the next big step in November of 2016 when Kawerak purchased the building from the City of Nome. Plans were drawn and funding identified for the needed upgrades to the facility. Recognition was given to past director Jessica Farley, who wrote the initial grant for the process. Next, a space had to be identified to continue services, a priority for the program. Thats where Robin Johnson from Nome Sweet Homes provided a great help, identifying the Dawn of Life wing as a possible space. Couple that with effort of Rolland Trowbridge of TSR put in the time and legwork to get the facility compliant for licensing and the Head Start staff and volunteers who physically moved classrooms from the newly purchased building on I street to the temporary location at the Dawn of Life. It was then construction could actually begin in May 2018 and complete in June of 2019. 

Every effort paid off in the end, and will continue to benefit the youth for years to come. Two classrooms were added, making a total of six classrooms. Existing classrooms became ADA compliant to ensure children of all abilities can have the early learning experience.  The HRV system received much needed attention and the kitchen upgraded to accommodate the increase in food service demands.  Lastly, a fresh layer of paint and carpet gave the upstairs a small face-lift. 

Director Deb Trowbridge and Kawerak Board President Frank Katchatag recognized the funders and supportive entities that made expansion and upgrades possible. The largest funder was the Office of Head Start providing over 4 million dollars for the  project. To ensure the expansion was financially do-able the Rasmuson Foundation generously granted $261,055 to the project. Child Care Development Funds also contributed to the project and lastly the Kawerak Board of Directors authorized $210,000 of RAMAH funds to be used for the remainder needed. Other individuals that were recognized for their contributions included DOWL the project managing company, UICC the construction company, ECI the architect and engineering company, and the Office of Child Care who provided support during licensing changes. 

The highlight of the evening’s celebration of course was when the children came out of the classrooms to count in Inupiaq and Yupik, say their Quyaana prayer and complete their performance with the Welcome Dance drummed by Jaylen Gologergan, Head Start Teacher Aide and member of the Nome St. Lawrence Island Drummers and Dancers. The crowd melted and cheered as the children’s smiles filled the room. Also during the event, Pastor Bertha Koweluk of the Methodist Church welcomed everyone with a prayer, and Elder Arlene Soxie blessed the building, ensuring learning, safety, happiness and love fill the building for years and years to come. Throughout the evening guests were invited to place a thumb or finger print on the artwork drawn by Guadelupe Callahan, a former Head Start graduate now in high school. The completed canvases represent each classroom, Salmonberry/ Cranberry, Blueberry/Blackberry, Iris, Fireweed, Lily, and Forget-Me-Not, and will be hung as artistic classroom signs outside each doorway. The celebration concluded with the Nome St. Lawrence Island Drummers and Dancers and an invitational brining parents, children and teachers to the dance floor. 

Kawerak’s Head Start, Early Head Start and Early Head Start/Child Care are pre-school and infant/toddler programs that promote social competence and structure among birth to five year old children in the Bering Strait region. Strong parental involvement, health and social services are primary components of Head Start’s well-rounded program.  Alaska Native language immersion and cultural programming are also of top priority within service delivery at Kawerak Head Start/Early Head Start/Child Care programs.

Kawerak Head Start Mission: To open doors of opportunity for children by providing comprehensive, quality family-centered services to eligible Head Start families