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Smithsonian Magazine to profile local advocate

By Cornelia de Bruin

Triplicate staff writer

Smithsonian Magazine is profiling Geneva Wiki, director of charter high school Klamath Early College of the Redwoods, for an upcoming article.

Wiki is one of 35 people who magazine reporter Katherine Ellison is writing about in an article titled "Thirty-five people under 35 who are making a difference."

Wiki has no idea how the magazine found out about her work, but has a suspicion.

"I was featured in Winds of Change in an article about people under the age of 30 who are helping their communities," she said.

The profile didn't surprise Ray Geary, acting vice president of College of the Redwoods-Del Norte campus.

"I'm impressed that they recognized us, and I'm thrilled they are doing something about Geneva," Geary said.

Wiki is "relentless" in her pursuit of doing something for Klamath and Early College of the Redwoods, he said.

"She is always promoting, always pursuing," Geary said. "It's pretty righteous; a lot of people lose sight of what they were put on the earth to do."

Wiki decided some time ago that her generation's work is to establish equitable education for the younger people growing up now.

She is a member of the Yurok tribe, knows her history and "wanted to so good in the community."

"We have only been a tribal government since 1993," Wiki said. "The generations before us fought for our rights and land base, and our fishing rights."

She believes that access to education is also a right, and caused to her to fight for equitable education for American Indian youth.

Del Norte County's Indian population mirrors the nation in its traditionally high dropout rates and very low college completion.

Wiki said that improvements to the dismal reflection have occurred during the short time since the early college was established in 2005.

"Last year we had 4 percent (of Indians) in college classes, this year it's 42 percent," she said. "All of our students are co-enrolled at College of the Redwoods."

Many of the Indian youth are also active in their communities, especially in the community of Klamath.

Half the school's students come from Crescent City. Their attendance increased during the past year from 72 to 90 percent.

"Several of the students say it's undoubtedly the best school they've been to in their lives, and some of them had gone to multiple schools," Wiki said.

Early College of the Redwoods has attracted Humboldt State University students who "volunteer teach" and do activities with the students.

Also helping the students are two tribal elders, one of them an 82-year-old man who is fluent in the Yurok language.

The school also is poised to receive its accreditation from the state, a year earlier than the process usually takes.

In her work to better her community, Wiki is walking in the footprints left by family members.

"I come from a long line of leaders who held national positions," she said. "My uncle (Raymond Mattz) sued the federal government, and my auntie (Susan Marten) was president of the National Congress of American Indians."

She calls the school's reception by the community and its progress "important and very exciting."

She credits her "wonderful" staff, "dedicated" parents and "exceptional" students for their hard work.

"It feels good to get national recognition," Wiki said.

 


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