The Iron Dog touches more communities than any other sporting event in Alaska. From urban centers to the smallest remote communities, our race provides more than just an exciting snow machine race. Events such as Iditarod and the Iron Dog create opportunities for economic, social and cultural activities especially for many of the villages along the race route.
As the new Executive Director for the Iron Dog, my job is a complex balancing act of working with people from all walks of life. My constituents run a wide range from corporate executives to the local trail breaker from a bush community. During my first months on the job, I worked hard to reconnect with our villages and the people who really make our race possible. One key connection I made was with Cynthia Erickson from Tanana. She was the Genesis of this student exchange idea.
Through a series of conversations with Cynthia and a contact she made with Mike Woods, a Resource Development teacher at King Career Center in Anchorage, the idea developed into a plan to create a Urban-Rural student exchange using the Iron Dog as a vehicle for learning. The plan is to provide students from two uniquely different regions of Alaska a combination of cultural immersion and lessons surrounding the geography, logistics and life lessons the Iron Dog has to offer. Many students from the urban areas have never seen or experienced life in rural Alaska, just as many students from rural areas rarely have the opportunity to engage in large events in our urban cities. Alaskans are more connected than ever via technology, but there’s no replacement for first hand experiences – and this program aims to bridge that urban-rural divide.
How it Works
There will be two student teams this year, one from Tanana and the other from King Career Center (KCC) in Anchorage. Each student team is comprised of five students and one teacher. For the Start of the 2011 Iron Dog race, the Tanana Team will fly into Anchorage to spend three days working with the KCC Team. Both teams will be at the Start of the race working as volunteers, meeting racers and learning as they go. Once the race is under way, the Tanana Team will return home and wait for the KCC Team to fly out to their village a few days before the Pro Class Iron Dog teams arrive into Tanana. The KCC urban students will get to experience life in rural Alaska and again work with the local volunteers during the race.
A New Tradition
This is the first time for the program and we’re excited to have the support of several key partners. Era Aviation was very generous in their support and will be providing all of the flights from Anchorage to Fairbanks for the student teams and teachers. Doyon Limited was kind enough to help out with lodging and some ground transportation for the students and teachers as they move between home towns. Getting in and out of Tanana requires another small air carrier and we’re very thankful to Bob Burcell of Wright Air Service and Tozitna Inc. for donating a big portion of the flights from Fairbanks. Iron Dog, Inc. will cover the remaining costs of travel not already donated.
Not to be forgotten, a special thanks to teacher Mike Woods (Anchorage), teacher’s aide Courtney Moore (Tanana) and to the school districts, Cynthia Erickson and everyone else who got behind this program. We are all excited to see this succeed and grow into a new tradition for the Iron Dog.
Executive Director, Iron Dog, Inc.
We’ll be posting bios and information about the students teams and plan to have them posting updates about their experiences online via Facebook, YouTube and on the Iron Dog website.