The Island of Kodiak is home to the great Kodiak bear, a strong salmon industry, legendary beauty and vibrant Native people with a strong culture and pride in their heritage. The Koniag Education Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, funds and supports the education and future of our people, their communities and economy. In just over a decade, KEF has awarded more than $2.2 million in scholarships and grants to our Alutiiq people.
The specific and severe needs KEF addresses are:
- Educational encouragement and financial support for the Alutiiq people to differing degrees based on their rural and urban location and their associated lack of economic and educational opportunities;
- Recruitment of students to post-secondary education, along with increasing student retention rates and decreasing drop-out rates once students begin school through mentorships, internships, and student networking;
- Facilitation of opportunities for remote village students who are falling through the educational support cracks.
- Without outreach and support from KEF, many of our students could not afford college and would be unaware of the opportunities that exist for them beyond their villages and communities.
KEF’s funding provides real opportunities for individuals to pursue education and obtain employment, translating into better living and working conditions for themselves and their families. An increase in income generated in a family grows the economy of the community in which they reside and gives scholarship recipients the ability to provide opportunities for others in their community through contributions and volunteer activities. Therefore, our support of recipients leverages opportunities for many others.
KEF currently operates at maximum efficiency, run by a Board of Directors with diverse business and marketing experience, most of whom are Alaska Native shareholders from our region. Staffing and technological needs are met at current levels and because KEF has an established endowment and operates on a tight budget, financials are stable and sustainable, with an overhead to direct services ratio of 16 to 84. Meaning that 84 cents of every dollar donated to KEF can be applied directly to scholarships and services provided to students. The calculation of time spent directly on student benefits is a conservative one, as it does not include fundraisers – it is made up entirely of time spent with students, funding students, or working to support students. KEF demonstrates these time distinctions through the attached break out of our budget and through our audited
KEF is able to successfully meet the needs of the Alutiiq people and their region because we support our students through more than finances. It is admirable to donate funds to any program that works to grow education and employment and contribute to society, but without mentorship of the student recipients, many well-intentioned foundations do not reach their goals. Without our outreach, Alaska Native drop-out rates remain high; with KEF’s support, our students succeed. KEF student dropout rates average 9.5% as opposed to the Alaska Native Statewide dropout rate average for those years of 35.15% (according to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development).
Donor support is an important part of the education and employment cycle to build strong communities and economies and reduce social ills such as alcoholism, domestic violence, depression, suicide, unemployment, and poverty. Donors to KEF are not asked to support overhead expenses or pay out scholarships for KEF, they are asked to partner with KEF to help develop programs for students who need preparation and motivation to continue their education. Growth of the endowment is also important, as it allows KEF to offer larger, more meaningful scholarship amounts to an exponentially growing number of students.
It is important that KEF plan for future growth as the numbers of Koniag shareholders and descendants increase and the costs of post-secondary education continue to rise. As the industries that rely on natural resources such as fishing, logging, and farming become less lucrative, a post-secondary education becomes a necessity to compete for employment opportunities. The management of KEF is dedicated to making an investment in the future of the Alutiiq people and the communities in which they live by building a future-oriented Koniag Education Foundation.
KEF is focused on these objectives through the development of its Student Recruitment/Retention Program; Student Mentorship Program; travel and marketing to urban and rural areas to disseminate educational information and opportunities to students, parents, and whole communities; and fundraising and investment activities designed to sustain and grow KEF so that we may offer more financial and support services to our people. We realize that if we stop short of fully supporting our students through networking, mentorship, and internship opportunities as well as encouragement, we are not giving them the best chance at success. Our students are successful because we support them through more than finances.