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Color of Justice During a Pandemic Grantee: Alaska Native Justice Center, Story by Sara Martinchick, ANJC Office Manager

The Alaska Native Justice Center (ANJC) hosted a two day Color of Justice program with support from The CIRI Foundation and in partnership with the Alaska Court System. Due to the pandemic in 2020, we adjusted the Color of Justice program to a hybrid model. The hybrid model of delivery enabled the program to be virtual and safe for all presenters and participants. All of the presentations were done virtual and majority of the students attended virtually, with four youth participating in-person while following all mandates and safety measures.

Although the pandemic created several barriers for the program, ANJC and the Alaska Court System were innovative with adjusting the programing to virtual using the Zoom platform. The Color of Justice Program consisted of several presentations and interactive activates such as Ice Breakers, Mentor Jet: A Speed Mentoring Experience, You be the Judge!, and Constitutional Cranium. Judge Pamela Washington, a local judge with the Alaska Court System, was vital in creating the curriculum for the program and brought several years of experience in hosting the Color of Justice.

Welcoming remarks were made by the Honorable Susan Carney, Judge Pamela Washington and ANJC Senior Director of Operations Tammy Ashley (TCF recipient). ANJC staff were vital to the success of the program. Office Manager Sara Martinchick coordinated all aspects of the programming in conjunction with Judge Washington and Youth Program Youth Advocate Michael Farahjood hosted the Ice breaker each day. During the Mentor Jet several Judges, Attorneys, and Professors met with the students sharing their own personal experiences, why they started working in the justice field, also answering several questions asked by the students.

A total of 17 youth participated; 2 were CIRI descendants and 1 was from the Bering Straits Native Corporation and 14 did not disclose. Working with the Southcentral Foundation Pathway Home Program, several of their students were able to attend virtually. One student said “The Color of Justice Program has shown me about the several careers that I could possibly have in the justice field and has sparked my interest in perusing one.”

Working together with the Alaska Court System, we were able to host the first virtual Color of Justice program in Alaska. ANJC was the “pilot project” for the Virtual Color of Justice to see if this was a feasible new way of hosting this opportunity. With the assistance of our partners, ANJC was able to successfully pave the way for hosting the virtual model of delivery for the Color of Justice. Since the event, word of the success of our program has been shared, and ANJC has been contacted by out-of-state Youth Court programs for guidance on their program.

Moving forward, ANJC looks forward to this new model of delivery, and hopes to engage more youth in additional rural areas to attend in future Color of Justice events.