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Engagement specialist shares Alaska Native culture by sharing stories with Fairbanks schools

Published: Dec. 9, 2021 at 4:09 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Johon Atkinson is a Men’s Engagement Specialist with the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (ANDVSA) who works with communities across Alaska.

According to Atkinson, he travels across the state working with not just adults but also with children. “As the Men’s Engagement Specialist for ANDVSA, I travel throughout Alaska and different communities to work with the communities, to work with the adults, work with the children, taking a holistic approach when working with wellness. So whenever I travel to communities, I not only work with different organizations that focus on adults, but I spend a lot of my time in schools as well.”

Along with speaking with communities, Atkinson has engaged with Fairbanks students by sharing stories from his Alaska Native culture with schools across Fairbanks.

“What I love about storytelling is that it connects us,” Atkins elaborated. “That it teaches so much. Because of the pandemic there’s been a lot of disconnection with not only the adults but with the kids, so being able to teach a story where they can learn together, they could laugh together, and then give them a story that they could retell so that they can connect their friends, and their families, and their friends, and their school, or wherever it may be... that’s just a beautiful thing all around.”

Atkinson also believes that sharing and engaging with different cultures can bring people together.

“The culture in the story telling is very, very important,” Atkinson remarked. “It’s very powerful. Culture is prevention, culture is strengthening for everybody. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you are from. If you embrace the culture in that land, if you embrace the stories, if you embrace those traditional values, it can bring back the balance in this world that we need, strengthen that connection from the disconnection that was caused for the last couple of years.”

Atkinson continued, “You know when working with wellness, when you’re working in communities, you have to take a holistic approach. You can’t just go into a community and just focus on domestic violence. You can’t go into a community and just focus on the adults or the youth. You have to be able to take a holistic approach, you have to strengthen our communities. You strengthen your communities, you strengthen your community numbers. You want to be able to give our community members something to fall back on, something to look back on where they’re proud to be part of that community.”

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