SOLDOTNA, AK (September 7, 2016) – When the first class of graduates of Alaska Christian College (ACC) walked across the stage to receive their diploma, each member placed a paper clip in the hand of Keith Hamilton, the school’s president.
“I had mentioned earlier in the year that ACC started without even a paperclip to its name, and they thought it was time that I had 18 paper clips,” Hamilton explains.
That was in 2002. Today the school has grown to 15 buildings on 27 acres, and more than 500 alumni.
The school will celebrate its anniversary on September 16, exactly 15 years after it opened, and the event will include a groundbreaking of the Taikuu Residence Hall, which became necessary when the school maxed out the number of students it can house.
The school again had record enrollment this year, with 81 students now taking classes. “We had to rent a local apartment building to accommodate the extra students because we are out of room. This new residence hall is critical to our growth,” Hamilton said.
As part of the celebration, the school also is sponsoring a one-day giving challenge. The school hopes to raise $15,000 toward its annual scholarship fund goal of $150,000.
Contributors can text “ACC” to 51400 with a gift of any amount. In addition to texting, contributors also can mail donations to the school at 35109 Royal Place, Soldotna, AK 99669, use the website at alaskacc.edu, or call in credit card information to (907) 260-7422.
The school originally began as a one-year discipleship program and has morphed into an accredited college that offers a two-year associate degree. “The school was born out of the dream of Alaskan elders, pastors, and leaders,” Hamilton said.
Students can choose between a degree in Christian ministry or paraprofessional education. Each two-year degree requires students to complete 31 credits of general education, 15 credits of biblical core, and 15 credits of content in the degree emphasis. Students must also complete two required seminars as well as a ministry practicum component.
Credits are transferable to four-year institutions so that students can continue on to earn bachelor’s degrees. It is a critical need. Less than 5 percent of Alaska Native high school graduates complete even their first semester of college, statistics show.
“Nowhere else in Alaska is there offered anything like what ACC offers to Alaska young people,” Hamilton says. The school helps students from rural and bush Alaska transition to the four-year university system or back to their villages with important skills.
The holistic services, which include academic, emotional, and spiritual counseling provided to students have been critical. “The academic abilities of students from rural Alaska are among the lowest in the U.S.,” Hamilton said. “We are a village of many villages at ACC, and we support Native cultural opportunities. For two years, our ACC students are part of our family and we do everything we can to offer hope and success to them.”