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Unalaska’s Lisa Tran Named RAHI Salutatorian


For the second year in a row, an Unalaska student has earned one of the top awards at the Rural Alaska Honors Institute.

Since 1983, the RAHI program has aimed to prepare Alaska Native and rural high school students for the transition to college life.

Lisa Tran distinguished herself amongst this summer's class, which hailed from 29 communities across the state.

It's graduation day at the Rural Alaska Honors Institute. Students in caps and gowns fill the auditorium, as Program Manager Denise Wartes welcomes the salutatorian to the stage.

"Lisa Tran!" she announces to applause. 

Tran is a rising senior at Unalaska's high school.

After six weeks of RAHI's college courses and social activities, she finished the program with straight As and a second-place ranking in the class. In total, 16 students earned 4.0 grade point averages.

"Lisa is a very bright and natural leader," says Wartes, reading from Tran's letters of recommendation. "She is one of the most independent students I've met."

In her own speech, Tran issues two challenges to her peers as they prepare for life after high school.

"Be ready for change and live in the now," she says. 

Trans says embracing new experiences will help students from small communities get the most out of college — both in and out of the classroom.

"Are we truly living if we don't do things that make our hearts race? Are we truly living if we're scared to do the unpredictable?" she says. "Put yourself out there and see where it takes you."

Tran earned a $1,500 scholarship at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Her award comes one year after Unalaska's Brian Conwell was named valedictorian of the program. He has since accepted a spot at Harvard University, where he'll start in the fall.

Laura Kraegel reported for KUCB from 2016 until 2020. She was KUCB's news director starting in 2019. We are proud to have her back in the spring of 2023 filling in as an interim reporter for KUCB.
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