Back to School: How VOA Alaska is Bringing Mental Health to Anchorage Students

In this month's newsletter, we highlight the impact of our school-based services and celebrate a successful community BBQ.
A camp staffer helping two kids make bracelets, rubberband-like materials are tied around their finders.
Kayla Jurchak, school-based clinician, helps upcoming 6th graders make bracelets during a VOA Alaska's summer camp at Begich Middle School.
A camp staffer helping two kids make bracelets, rubberband-like materials are tied around their finders.
Kayla Jurchak, school-based clinician, helps upcoming 6th graders make bracelets during a VOA Alaska's summer camp at Begich Middle School.

Below is VOA Alaska’s August 2023 Newsletter. To receive this newsletter and other updates directly to your inbox, sign up here.

Since 2015, VOA Alaska has partnered with the Anchorage School District to provide mental health support directly within schools. Our school-based team empowers students to build self-confidence, resiliency, and social competency that enhance their capacity for academic success—all directly within their school!

School clinicians provide clinical expertise and immediate access to care, aiming to reduce mental health stigma, decrease barriers to accessing supports, and improve service quality by observing students in their natural environment. They are at drop-off or pick-up, in hallways, the lunchroom, recess, classrooms, staff meetings, or as part of family nights. They work alongside administrators, school counselors, teachers, support staff, and caregivers to ensure they are supporting the unique needs of each school, student, and family.

What school staff are saying about their experiences with mental health clinicians:

“Students and staff are getting the help and the tools they need so that they can function. Once they have those emotional/mental tools to deal with their personal trauma, they can start to engage with their schoolwork.”

“Students and families can get immediate counseling support or help in accessing appropriate outside of school supports. Also, I appreciate our school therapist as a resource for staff in approaching situations involving struggling (mental health) students and families.”

What caregivers are saying is the benefit of mental health clinicians in schools:

“Providing my child a safe and comfortable environment to understand or learn about [their] needs.”

“The fact that they are present in the school and my kiddo already knew them and was comfortable engaging in therapy.”

What students are saying about their experiences with mental health clinicians:

“Being able to talk to someone about things I don’t feel comfortable telling friends or family.”

“Not giving straight answers/solutions but guiding me into finding what works for me to figure out on my own.”

“Getting to talk to someone I trust about my feelings and about my life that I’m having a hard time with.”

“I get confidence from my therapist and learn more about issues.”

As we enter the new school year, we are dedicating our energy to increasing our impact in the schools we serve. Visit our school-based services webpage to see where our clinicians are located and to learn more about the support they provide. 

School-based services are supported through our partnership with Providence Alaska and the Anchorage School District. This program is supported by grants from the Municipality of Anchorage, United Way of Anchorage, and ConocoPhillips Alaska.

VOA’s Back-to-School Community BBQ was a huge success!

In the foreground, a person stands at a smoky grill flipping burgers. In the background, a line of people prepare plates while more people wait behind them.
Grillmaster Gabe cooked over 324 hotdogs and 320 burgers during our Back-to-School Community Barbeque at Chanshtnu Muldoon Park.

Thanks to all who joined us for our Back-to-School Community Barbecue for free food, school supplies, activities, and a backpack raffle.

Special thanks to Boys & Girls Clubs – Alaska, Food Bank of Alaska, and Girl Scouts of Alaska for joining us and sharing their resources and support for Alaska’s youth and families.

We served 324 hotdogs and 320 burgers, gave out 200 bags with school supplies, cooked over 150 s’mores, and made 100 glitter bottles with kids.

We hope everyone is having a smooth transition back into the school year routine. We look forward to seeing you all with us on October 8 for our Fall Festival! Learn more at

Let’s Talk About Drinking: VOA’s Next Town Hall

A conference-like setting in a large atrium, the audience looks towards a person speaking into a microphone.
Community members of all ages joined us in at the Anchorage Library for a “Let’s Talk about Drinking” Town Hall in Fall 2022.

In Alaska, 12.4% of youth report binge drinking. We want Anchorage kids to be healthy and safe, but we know alcohol is widely available. At our next town hall on September 13, let’s talk about how to promote healthy choices for youth and how to build a community that supports youth to thrive.

Town Hall – Underage Drinking, A Youth Perspective
Wednesday, September 13 – 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Alaska Safety Alliance Training Room

(Across the hall from VOA Alaska)
2600 Cordova Street, Anchorage

RSVP to receive Zoom link

This is an open event! Anyone can join the town hall to learn about how alcohol impacts youth in Anchorage—and hear directly from Anchorage teens! Share the Facebook event page with your friends and family.

Partner Recognition: Raise-a-Ride Ribbon Cutting!

A crowd stands behind a two vans with a large blue ribbon tied between them. A person with giant scissors is ready to cut.
Tiffany Vassar, Contributions & Events Senior Manager at GCI, had the honor of cutting the giant blue ribbon to celebrate the purchase of VOA’s new minivans.

The sunshine showed up for us as we celebrated a massive win in breaking down barriers to care for youth accessing behavioral health services: the purchase of two minivans for VOA Alaska’s Outpatient Team to transport youth to and from services!

We are incredibly thankful for the support of our generous partners at GCI and the Rasmuson Foundation, as well as community members Jami Bishop, Alexandro Cetina, Jose Luis Cetina, Carolyn Heyman, Lori Landenburger, Jane Luey, Julia Luey, Debra Rouse, and Sammy Sue, who stepped up to help VOA Raise a Ride for youth!

Learn more about how meaningful these minivans are for our program staff and the youth we serve on our blog