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Partners in Growth

The Partners in Growth program is funded by an AN/NHIAC grant and is a multi – agency collaboration between the University of Alaska, Fairbanks–Kuskokwim Campus, Bethel Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center (YPCC), Alaska State Council on the Arts (ASCA), Bethel Community Services Foundation (BCSF), Alaska Small Business Development Center (SBDC), and six Southwest Alaska villages. The program offers a series of professional development workshops to participating communities in small business growth, financial planning, technical and computer skills training, entrepreneurial skills, grant writing, local manufacturing, arts marketing and customer development.



Reyne Athanas, Bethel, Alaska 
Reyne Athanas is the current HUD AN/NHIAC grant manager and YPCC Coordinator.  Her role in the “Partners in Growth” team is to oversee program development and coordination including grant reporting/management, program staff, adjunct professor and workshop instructor recruitment, and scheduling.

Reyne has nine years of experience coordinating HUD and other program grants, over 15 years experience coordinating regional small business workshops, sport and art camps, and festivals, and is a founding board member of the Tundra Women’s Organization (domestic violence/sexual assault shelter), and the Kuskokwim Art Guild.  She is a retired public art teacher (25 years), university adjunct instructor (35 years), with a Masters degree in Fine Arts.  Reyne was on the design team and the first year coordinator for the Emerging Scholars Program (KuC freshmen retention program), and past Governor’s Appointee to the Alaska State Council on the Arts.  Under her oversight, YPCC has become a viable, community asset and highly visible facility, paying for its own operations for the first time since its construction in 1993.



Ben Carignan

Ben served as an AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) at the Bethel Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center. His primary focus in the “Partners in Growth” Program was to energize and stabilize Yukon Kuskokwim Delta region economies with professional development opportunities and independent job creation. Ben mobilized resources, transferred professional skills to residents, generated private sector commitment, and increased the capacity of YK Delta communities to determine locally appropriate solutions to community challenges.

Born in Manchester, New Hampshire, Ben lived and worked mostly in the Boston area,in  Massachusetts. He earned a B.A. degree from the University of New Hampshire in May 2012, majoring in Anthropology.

Workshop Partners



L. Saunders McNeill, Palmer, Alaska
Saunders has served as the Alaska State Council on the Arts Community and Native Arts Program Director since 2000. She developed and administers the Alaska’s Living Cultural Treasures Program, initiated and facilitates a State and Federal inter-agency Alaska Native Art anti-fraud partnership, and designed and delivers a Professional Development training program for rural Alaskan artists. Her responsibilities also include grant administration, grantee technical support and oversight of the statewide Silver Hand Program. She works with an Alaska Native Arts Advisory Committee and Cultural Centers Museums Consortium members to serve Alaska constituents.

Prior to joining the Council, Saunders served as staff on Governor Knowles’ Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment in 1999. From 1998 – 2002 She worked with remote Alaska Native and Chukotka Native community members as an independent artist and photographer. Her resulting Portrait of a Divided Maritime Family work has been exhibited and published in Alaska, nationally and internationally.  She holds a Northern Studies undergraduate degree with a minor in studio fine arts from Bates College and has carried Merchant mariner and private pilot licenses. She is a practicing artist and the small business owner and operator of Alaska Mellifera Honey Co. apiary.