Local education advocate wins award for activism

The award is the result of years of work on behalf of equity of education for Juneau’s children

Lisa X’unyéil Worl was recently awarded the Carla Timpone Award for Activism from the Alaska Women’s Lobby for her work in the education system. (Courtesy photo / Konrad Frank)

Lisa X’unyéil Worl was recently awarded the Carla Timpone Award for Activism from the Alaska Women’s Lobby for her work in the education system. (Courtesy photo / Konrad Frank)

Lisa X’unyéil Worl is many things to her friends and colleagues, but one term that keeps coming up is bridge-builder.

A Juneau local, Worl has worked for 18 years in capacities from parent volunteer to legislative aide to Juneau School District Board of Education member to advocate for equity and hearing all voices around the table.

Now, she’s being recognized for that. Worl is one of this year’s winners of the Alaska Women’s Lobby Carla Timpone Award for Activism, alongside Sam and Gayle Trivette and Pat McLear.

“It was different. I feel like a lot of the work I do is behind the scene. I’ve been in the classrooms, on the councils, on the sight councils,” Worl said in a phone interview. “A lot of the things I’ve done have built up over time.”

The award is named after Carla Timpone, who helped found the Fairbanks Women’s Shelter, and was prominently involved in many organizations, including AWARE.

Worl was introduced as she received the award by state Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, who served with Worl on the school board.

“What I have enjoyed so much about Lisa is she likes to make sure people are aware of issues so they can weigh in to policymakers. Parents have a lot more power than they think they do,” Story said in a phone interview. “That’s been a high priority for her. She spoke up for people. She really believed in fairness. She knows that some people have better access to decision-makers than others. She tried to be a voice for many perspectives.

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Worl currently works for the Association of Alaska School Boards, said her colleague at the AASB, Lori Grassgreen, who emphasized Worl’s intrinsic grasp of the larger situation and her facility for making connections.

“This is a person who gives so much and at the root it’s because she sees everyone as extended family. She cares so much about the community,” Grassgreen said in a phone interview. “She is amazing at seeing the whole picture and making these connections. She looks at those connections and she says, how can we improve the outcomes for my community? She builds bridges between everything. She really is a bridge-builder.”

Giving tools to those who might not know about them and power to parents is part of Worl’s mission.

“I have served as a conduit. I am just one person. However, through our collective voice, our community, school board, and our elected officials hear how policy impacts us in real ways,” Worl said in her acceptance remarks. “I’ve witnessed how our collective voice helped policymakers prioritize Native language programs and back off harmful, deep cuts to education funding.”

Worl initially got involved with the school after seeing a reflection of it in herself.

I can see a lot of myself in students. I can see a lot of myself in parents who aren’t engaged, who are disenfranchised for one reason or another,” Worl said. “It’s not that these voices don’t matter, it’s that certain voices are missing.”

“All our kids deserve quality public education. They say education is a great equalizer. But that assumes that our education experience is equal. Unfortunately, this pandemic has shown us how much this isn’t true,” Worl said in her remarks. “In these past months, we saw how many of our kids would go hungry without the lunch programs and others who didn’t have internet connectivity or devices when our schools shut down and went to remote learning.”

Worl recently became part of the City and Borough of Juneau Systemic Racism Review Committee, being selected as chair of the newly formed board.

“I thought, this is something I care a lot about, equity in general. I’ve looked at a lot of systems, mostly education, but you can adapt that: whatever I can do to help,” Worl said. “We had our first meeting yesterday. It was encouraging. You can see these members clearly all care.”

As she continues her work for equality of education, she remains focused on the children and the community, Worl said.

“How do we support these families who are doing the best they can to survive? How do we tap into their strengths, their resiliencies, so that they can thrive? That is the goal,” Worl said. “All our kids deserve to feel safe in the classrooms and schools. They all deserve to be supported in such a way that they can thrive, learn, and become who they’re meant to be.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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