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Yaakoosgé students create blocks as gifts for children

Several of the toys will be given to the children of students at the school

Posted: Sunday, December 07, 2008

For a few hours last Friday, students at Yaakoosgé Daakahídi alternative high school cut, shaped, and sanded hundred of wood blocks to be bundled up and given away to small children, including the children of some of the school's students.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

Ellen Betit, an administrator at Yaakoosgé, said the school has 18 students who are parents.

Betit said the challenges a young adult who has to go to school, care for a child, and in some cases work a job can be daunting, especially when it comes to extra money for gifts.

"They do not have many of the things other high school students have," she said.

The idea behind Friday's block-building event was to lighten the load of some of these students by helping them make their own Christmas gifts for their children, Betit said. Leftover blocks will be given to local charities, Betit said.

Yaakoosgé student Melissa Jensen, an 18-year-old single mother of a 1-and-a-half-year-old boy, Valentino, said she and her son both enjoy playing or working with their hands.

Jensen said she eventually wants to learn a trade, such as being a mechanic. She said Valentino enjoys playing with blocks, but his current set is missing a lot of pieces.

"It'll be really nice when he has new blocks to play with," she said.

Leslie Miyasato, 17, has a baby due in January. She said she can remember playing with her own building blocks as a kid and hopes her child won't throw the blocks like she did.

Outside the school Friday, Principal John Norman supervised as students used circular saws to cut pieces of wood.

"That doesn't happen too much anymore, where people make the things their children play with," he said. "I would hope that they find a lot of satisfaction in that."

• Contact reporter Alan Suderman at 523-2268 or e-mail alan.suderman@juneauempire.com.



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