Annie Rosenthal

Nanwalek works to save dying Native language

NANWALEK — “Do you know what your name means?”

Sally Ash asks each student in the classroom, one at a time. Some nod, others shake their heads. She’s not asking about their English names. The elementary and middle school students in Ash’s class at Nanwalek School are Sugpiaq, Alaska Natives of the Chugach region, and each has received a name from his or her grandparent in their traditional language: Sugt’estun.

Exchange students learn new holiday traditions

Tonight, Nouredine Mama will celebrate Christmas for the first time. 

The 16-year-old exchange student from Cameroon is Muslim, and though at home in the capital city of Douala he got a vacation from school in December, his religious holidays fell in the summer and fall. So the lighted tree in his host family’s house is exciting.

“I’m here to share and learn,” he says.

Paul Banks kids celebrate Christmas, insect-style

Outside of an entomology conference, you couldn’t find a group of people happier to see several dozen bugs than the packed audience in Mariner Theatre last Thursday afternoon. 

Nearly every seat was filled for Paul Banks Elementary School’s performance of “A Bugz Christmas,” a musical acted out by costumed kindergarteners, first- and second-graders. Parents and grandparents stood to wave and call to their wing-clad children as the stage filled with little bugs — who waved happily back, pipe cleaner antennae wobbling.

Alumni event to open Mariners’ hoops season

Post-Christmas and pre-New Year’s, a “Meet the Mariners” event hosted by the Homer High basketball teams gives alumni a chance to celebrate their days in letterman jackets — and the kids who wear the Mariner uniform today. Starting in the high school gym at 5 p.m. on Dec. 26, the season-opening event promises food, basketball, and fun for all.

The night kicks off with an alumni basketball game in honor of former Homer coaches Rob Gribble and Alice Witte.

Latest books by Homer writers:

With the holiday season in full swing, odds are you’re on the hunt for gifts for friends and family. Luckily, 2015 was a busy year for local authors. Here are six new titles available at the Homer Bookstore, for sale by the author, or on iTunes — check out Shelley Gill’s new whale info app. From memoirs about frontier Alaska to a novel of romance and danger in Africa to creative and kooky new books for kids, there’s something new by a Homerite for every member of the family.

Sunni Hilts looks forward to future, while celebrating past

Around the living room of the house that Sunni Hilts and her husband built themselves soon after moving to Seldovia in 1970, the display of framed family photos is bright and lively enough to rival the snowy wonderland out the window. Hilts points out their five children, one of whom was an Alaska Native; several grandchildren, including three biracial African Americans and three Ethiopians; and three smiling great-grandchildren.

Homer’s Nutcracker: Tradition mixed with lots of new additions every year

When Jill Berryman stopped by Nutcracker rehearsal last Sunday to offer feedback to dancers, she said she was thrilled by the new additions to the show. Berryman directed Homer’s annual production of the Nutcracker Ballet from its debut in 1989 until five years ago, when her daughter, Sabrena “Breezy” Berryman, took over artistic direction with Jennifer Norton. 

Saturday marks the 157th performance of the Nutrcracker in Homer, and the show that opens at 3 p.m. on Dec. 5, is pretty different from its 1989 predecessor, Berryman said.

Expert talks about invasive species

Ask 8-year-olds in most parts of the country to name invasive species in their town, and you’d get a lot of confused looks. But when Matt Steffy, a natural resources specialist at Homer Soil and Water Conservation District, posed that challenge to a class of third- through sixth-graders at Fireweed Academy on Nov. 20, the response was immediate.

“There is mint is all over our garden but we never planted it, it just came up, ” shouted out one eager fourth-grader.

Adult Education Association honors KBC’s Carol swartz

There’s a piece of paper taped above Carol Swartz’s desk that reads, “To love what you do and feel that it matters — how could anything be more fun?”

It’s an apt description of Swartz’s feelings toward her job as director of Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College of University of Alaska-Anchorage. In June she’ll have been at it 30 years, working with a passion that hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Homer’s Nutcracker:

When the curtains open at Mariner Theatre on Saturday, Dec. 5, nearly 100 people will pirouette, leap, tango and hula hoop across the stage — the 27th annual Homer Nutcracker Ballet includes 85 dancers between the ages of 5 and 18, and 13 adult performers.

But backstage, in the light and sound booths, in the dressing rooms and in the audience, there are at least an equivalent number of people who’ve put their all into the show, and they won’t step into the spotlight in ballet slippers.

Community art shows feature Homer’s talent

Three community shows around Homer this week highlight one thing town residents have to be thankful for: a plethora of talented artists.


KBC class develops work
by diverse artists

Head into the lobby of Kachemak Bay Campus at any point this month, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by warm, brightly colored works of art. Students in Asia Freeman’s fall painting class at the college gathered on Nov. 12 to celebrate the display of their work from the semester.

Group works on details of creating shelter for Homer’s homeless youth

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to show that the vast majority of homeless students on the peninsula are unsheltered but a few who are either over 18 or staying with a parent and a victim of domestic violence are sheltered at South Peninsula Haven House; and that the next Homeless Action Committee meeting occurred on Dec. 3, not Dec. 4.

Letters Aloud sheds light on flip side of being famous

Three months before “Born to Run” was released, Bruce Springsteen scrawled a note to his landlady explaining that he couldn’t pay the rent. Amelia Earhart got cold feet on her wedding day. Clyde Barrow of infamous crime duo Bonnie and Clyde wrote a fan letter to Henry Ford a month before he was killed in his Ford V8. Bruce Lee’s 1969 diary includes a promise to himself to become “the highest paid Oriental super star in the United States.”

Maker Space combines creativity, high tech

At 5:30 p.m. Monday, when his mother told him it was time to leave the Homer Maker Space for the day, an elementary school student let out a moan of ultimate suffering. 

“You’ll be back tomorrow,” said Mom.

“Yeah, I will,” responded her son with absolute conviction, grudgingly closing a laptop on the boat design he was working on.

Sitting nearby helping another student on a laptop, Daniel Zatz smiled.

Hope for homeless

It’s not easy to be homeless in Alaska in November. That was the verdict among approximately a dozen people who spent Saturday night in WKFL Park as part of Homer High student Casey Marsh’s senior project, “The Triple H’s of Homer.” Temperatures sank to 28 degrees and the activists working to raise awareness about youth homelessness on the Kenai Peninsula woke up to snow falling on their tents and cardboard box shelters.

Although actual attempts to rest got pretty chilly, as Marsh had predicted, sleep wasn’t the event’s main activity. 

Gold Diggers win Play Like Crazy volleyball tourney

The annual “Play Like Crazy” community coed volleyball tournament rounded out two days of intense, fun play on Saturday evening with a tournament win for the Gold Diggers, a team made up of mostly Homer High students. 

The championship game pitted them against Homer E-Z Pass, an eclectic group of community athletes of all ages, who were undefeated until that final match-up.


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