AILP Student Profile: Lynda Hadley
Throughout the 2009–2010 academic year, the American Indian Leadership Program (AILP) has been celebrating its 40th anniversary. AILP is the nation's oldest continuously operating educational leadership program for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Since the program was founded in 1970, more than 220 American Indian and Alaska Native students have earned master's and doctoral degrees from the program and have gone on to pursue leadership positions at the local, tribal, state, and national levels. To celebrate this milestone, the College of Education is profiling alumni and students of the program.
by Joe Savrock (July 2010)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Lynda Hadley hears a calling. She aspires to improve the educational prospects of Alaskan K–12 students, many of whom are at risk of dropping out of school.
Lynda, an Alaska Native from the Inupiaq group, is hoping to make full use of the expertise she is gaining as a graduate student in Penn State’s American Indian Leadership Program (AILP). She is pursuing a master’s degree in educational leadership, expecting to complete her AILP studies in spring 2011.
When she eventually completes her degree and returns home, she hopes that her leadership skills will come into play as she works with educators in the Alaskan schools. “I want to help the Alaska Native community improve the formal education of our youth,” she says, pointing to a high dropout rate among the children in the Alaska Native population.
Lynda has taught school for three entities in her home state: the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, the Anchorage School District, and the Juneau School District. She also once served as an instructor for the Adult Learning Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Lynda and her husband, Don Argetsinger, currently make their home in the Anchorage area, the most urbanized region of Alaska. But Lynda is used to more rugged surroundings--she grew up in the Alaskan Arctic. “I was born in the village of Deering and lived in various villages of Alaska outside of the Kotzebue hub,” she says. “This is now the NANA (Northwest Arctic Native Association) Regional Corporation area under the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act.”
Lynda’s childhood was just as rugged as her Arctic surroundings. “A large part of my being centers on the fact that I was a former foster child,” she states. “Although it was not a perfect experience, many altruistic adults protected me from harm’s way.
“The only way that I can give thanks to those adults--some have since gone to the Spirit World--will be through my work in education,” says Lynda. “Many of the adults who helped me in my youth were the school counselor, the principal, and my teachers—and especially my gym teacher, Mrs. Hahn.”
The Inupiaq are one of the world’s most north-reaching aboriginal people, extending from Alaska’s Pacific coast into Canada and Greenland. “The everyday tradition, which is an innate part of me, are the Inupiaq language phrases I have retained,” states Lynda. “I speak some Inupiaq, but I am not fluent.”
Hunting and fishing are hallmark Inupiaq customs. “I eat traditional Inupiaq foods, which in my youth were prepared as part of my life’s way of knowing,” says Lynda. “The traditional foods I consume feed my spirit.” She particularly loves to eat seal--which, she says, is marinated in seal oils during the summer months.
“Inupiaq food is a tradition that is complex,” she notes. “Its complexity is due to the genius of the people who created methods of keeping the food for the winter months, prior to the days of refrigeration and electricity.”
Now that she lives in urban Alaska, rather than in the state’s more desolate northern areas, Lynda must purchase or trade in order to obtain traditional foods.
Lynda and Don have two grown sons, John Deem and Timothy Hadley Argetsinger. “John lives in Seattle and works for a place for the homeless where they shower and do laundry. We are very proud of that,” says Lynda. “Tim is a Dartmouth graduate and is learning the Inupiaq language. He is currently employed in Barrow, Alaska, with the school district's Inupiaq Education department working on their curriculum. His work brings us hope for our culture and our language.
“Don is not a member of the Inupiaq group,” continues Lynda, “but he has been involved in the Alaska Native groups, which is how I met him. He works for the Koniag Native Corporation. His knowledge about Alaska Native indigenous cultures has been a large part of his support for my need to learn.”
As Lynda pursues her degree, she has found the separation from family and friends to be an adjustment. “You get over it and move on,” she says. “The moving-on part comes with the realization of how the information one learns in the classroom can benefit our Alaska Native children. One’s sense of purpose becomes more than the sum of one’s missing loved ones, although that is always on the radar. My husband and family are very supportive of my work.”
Lynda has adjusted nicely to Pennsylvania’s surroundings. “I prefer rural communities, so State College is nice in that way,” she says. “The weather in Pennsylvania is much more humid and hot during the summer months. The winter months are extremely cold as well, which I am accustomed to.”
One Pennsylvania attribute in particular has earned Lynda’s admiration.
“I absolutely love the fireflies,” she says.