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Qawalangin Tribe offers free online college programs to tribal members through new partnership

Theo Greenly

The Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska is offering free online college programs to all tribal members through a new educational partnership. Tribal officials are hoping the opportunity will help grow a workforce in Unalaska beyond the fishing industry.

The collaboration is part of the tribe's Workforce Development Pilot Program and offers a range of courses in health care, business administration and skilled trades at Penn Foster College.

Tanaya Horne, chief operating officer of the tribe, said they intentionally chose programs that would support Unalaska’s workforce, as the city looks to diversify its economy amid declining crab stocks and other uncertainties in the fishing industry.

“It comes into this flux, where we don’t quite know what is going to happen,” Horne said. “It's our responsibility and pride to ensure that the lands are protected. Part of that is making sure that we've got capable people on island who can do the work that comes with that economic development that we're so looking forward to in Unalaska.”

The Qawalangin Tribe is part of a trilateral agreement with the City of Unalaska and the Ounalashka Corporation. The entities have pledged to jointly address the island’s infrastructure needs. Horne said they’re also investing in Unalaskans.

“We're training people,” she said. “We're using federal training dollars through workforce development grants … and we're not having to invest in bringing people to the island. It’s reducing operational expenses.”

There are dozens of free online Penn Foster College courses now available to Qawalangin tribal members. Horne said several people have already enrolled in the college partnership since launching the program on July 31.

Sofia was born and raised in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She’s reported around the U.S. for local public radio stations, NPR and National Native News. Sofia has a Master of Arts in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism from the University of Montana, a graduate certificate in Documentary Studies from the Salt Institute and a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Arts from the University of Colorado Boulder. In between her studies, Sofia was a ski bum in Telluride, Colorado for a few years.
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