A rundown on SAGA and its services

Posted: Sunday, May 10, 2009

SAGA, previously referred to as the Southeast Alaska Guidance Association, is now acronym-free, said Mary Ullman, SAGA's recruitment and hiring manager.

The organization's name is now a bit outdated as some of its youth corps members have come from as far as Diomede, which straddles the International Dateline between Alaska and Siberia.

"We now serve areas from Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan up to Livengood, and west to the Pribiloff Islands," Ullman said. "Now, SAGA just stands for 'epic journey,' which is a pretty good description of an AmeriCorps term of service."

SAGA has two corps programs, Alaska Service Corps and Serve Alaska Youth Corps, which provide valuable services to Alaska's lands and communities, while providing its members with job training and education, Young said.

Specifically, the corps do three main types of service: trail work, roadside safety improvements and invasive plant species removal.

"Our partnerships with organizations such as the Forest Service and the city of Juneau are truly mutually beneficial," Ullman added. "We're currently doing work out on the Nugget Falls Trail, which when complete will become the most-used trail in all the Tongass Forest."

Alaska Service Corps members come from across the country and are generally interested in serving Alaska's lands and communities. The Serve Alaska Youth Corps members are Alaskans aged 16 to 24 who are taught life and work skills.

Ullman noted that SAGA is recruiting for the youth corps now to serve from June 8 to Aug. 17, earning about $1,000 a month.

"(They get to) travel and be outside," Ullman added. "It's such a wonderful opportunity for youth, rather than spending the summaer at the mall or playing video games."

Joe Parrish, SAGA executive director and founder, elaborated on the goal of SAGA's youth programs.

"The heart of SAGA will always be serving the disconnected or at-risk youth of Alaska," Parrish said. "Those youth participants are still the reason we all come to work every day."

For more information on applying for the Serve Alaska Youth Corps members, visit www.servealaska.org and click on "Openings."

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In addition to its corps, SAGA operates three programs that seek to improve Alaskans' lives, lands and communities through experiential learning:

• Young Alaskans Building Affordable Housing (YABAH) program in Sitka, which currently has 16 enrolled and provides construction training along with GED tutoring for Alaskan youths;

• Eagle Valley Center, located at 24.2 Mile (what many locals think of when they think of SAGA), which hosts outdoor education programs such as the ropes course, winter camps and summer backpacking and kayak trips led by AmeriCorps members;

• SAGA's Connections programs, which place AmeriCorps members within nonprofit, educational or government agencies to focus on prevention of risky youth behaviors.

Ashley Saupe, now completing her 11-month AmeriCorps term of service with Discovery Southeast, said part of her service with SAGA's Connections involves piloting a Gastineau Elementary School program that teaches kids to be stewards of the ocean.

"My term at Discovery Southeast is a great connection between SAGA and AmeriCorps and the Juneau community," Saupe said. "I love that I get to put my passion for service and nature to use in such a meaningful way."



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