FAIRBANKS -- Students and others attending the opening day of the Elders and Youth Conference in Fairbanks got a lesson in making college affordable.
The financial-planning work session Monday included an exercise in which people gathered in three groups to make tall towers by tying together individual pipe cleaners, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Tuesday.
Presenters at the work session, Olga Skinner and Colleen Angaiak from the rural education program of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, compared the pipe-cleaner activity to Alaska Native students who want to go to college. That's because students can draw on the resources of friends and family to make college affordable, just as tying the pipe cleaners together makes the towers stronger.
"Through working together, we're able to build each other up and reach higher heights," Skinner said.
The three-day conference precedes the annual convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives that begins Thursday and runs through Saturday.
At Monday's work session, the presenters also talked about basic college planning tools available to students, such as federal student aid. They also talked about opportunities available to students from the state of Alaska and from Native corporations and villages.
Several dozen students and community members attended the session.
Other speakers at the session were a professor, representatives from Wells Fargo and UAF students, including Brett Kirk, a civil engineering student from the village of Noatak.
"Don't be discouraged to apply for anything you can get," Kirk said. "It's definitely helped me out a lot."
Every bit helps when trying to pay for college, from grants and scholarships to working and frugally spending, according to Skinner and Angaiak.
"All these things we talked about are just like those pipe cleaners," Angaiak said. "The more you have, the stronger (your tower will be)."