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Winning essay yields books for alternative high school

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2006

The last prize LouAnn Gagné remembers winning was a red-haired doll from a Piggly Wiggly grocery store many years ago. She didn't even like dolls.

Gagné, a library technician for the Juneau Public Libraries, has finally won something dear to her heart. She wrote the first-place essay for the Ketchikan Chapter of the Alaska Library Association's Book Bonanza Award, winning $1,200 worth of reference books for Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School.

"It was just so exciting that I was going to be able to do this for the kids," Gagné said.

She said winning the prize for the kids was even better than winning the doll for herself as a child.

"I was so pleased," Gagné said. "I was just tickled for a long time."

Gagné said she was inspired to write the essay on the subject "How New Books for Kids Will Make A Difference in My Library," because of the lack of reference material and absence of a library at the alternative high school. She said reference materials should be available to all students.

"To me it's just a basic skill that I think people need to have to find information and this is a way they can learn to do it," she said.

Yaakoosge Daakahidi Principal Laury Scandling said her students must walk down the street to Juneau-Douglas High School when they need to use the library, which she calls a barrier to their education. She said the school is very grateful for the new reference books.

"When there are fewer barriers to learning, much more can be achieved," Scandling said. "Barriers come in all shapes - some are distance, some are financial, some are social."

Gagné, who also volunteers in an English class at the alternative high school each week, said needing a pass to the JDHS library or a teacher to chaperone the excursion can be a burden on the students.

"That's not always a priority, so they don't always get to use the library," she said.

The prize was redeemed from Cook Inlet Book Company, and the school now has nearly 30 new reference books to access. There also were some books donated by the public library.

Scandling said the volunteer work and book donations from Gagné, is a tremendous help to the school. She said volunteers and resources are essential in helping the school help kids receive their diplomas.

"She's like our fairy godmother," Scandling said.

She said helping in little ways like donating books helps reinforce that Yaakoosge Daakahidi is a real high school. She said the school often gets overlooked, especially when people refer to the Mendenhall Valley High School being constructed as the "second high school."

"I'm hoping that strengthening our school in any way will help the community know that we are a legitimate high school with a quality program," Scandling said.

Gagné said she hopes to get more books donated to the school and hopes to set up a banned book display.

"I don't know if they would have to room to have a full library, but they should have more books than they do," she said.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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