780 AM | 96.1 FM 


(907) 443-5221

In Kiana, “Ripples” of Positive Change

"Selfie" of Kiana middle school student Shaedyn Barr and radio producer Lauren Frost
Producer Lauren Frost (right) poses for a “selfie” with one of the members of OPT In Kiana, middle school student Shaedyn Barr. Photo: courtesy of Ms. Barr.

“Every action counts and creates a ripple effect; choose wisely,” states the theme of a 2017 youth conference organized by OPT In, a youth group in the rural village of Kiana (ky-ANN-uh). Group founder Ivory Gerhardt-Cyrus explains to listeners, in a recent episode of KNOM’s Story49, that the theme “shows you can make a difference. Negative or positive, either way, you’re making a difference.”

The new social group has given youth in Kiana a platform to encourage each other to be their best, despite the region’s high rates of suicide, domestic violence, sexual assault, and substance abuse. Even the organization’s name is a source of encouragement: OPT In stands for “One Positive Thing,” the group’s mantra of doing at least one good deed each day.

OPT In’s philosophy springs from its origins: a series of teen nights in Kiana that addressed issues with which rural Alaska youth grapple, such as bullying or family members who abuse alcohol. Over time, the group meetings grew beyond their start as a “safe space” for teens facing challenges; the group began to influence their community to make a difference and to treat each other with compassion. Ivory’s group decided to host a special youth gathering for Kiana teens; this year, they expanded their efforts into a regional youth conference — and the impact was profound.

The gathering rallied youth to be mindful about how their actions can impact others, the potential of positive encouragement, and the importance of openly talking about their problems — especially in moments of despair, or if thoughts ever turn to suicide.

Through this and future conferences, OPT In aims to ripple positive life changes throughout the region: not just with young people who are already accomplished, but — especially — with those who may be struggling. “We’re not (only) looking for people who have ‘arrived,’” says Jeanne Gerhardt-Cyrus, Ivory’s mother and a key contributor to OPT In. “Everybody has something to offer,” Jeanne adds.

The group’s impact, and its welcoming spirit, can be seen in the advice through which this year’s conference attendees summarized their experience, talking to KNOM. “Choose kindness,” one said. “Keep a good mindset and focus on your goals,” said another. “Do what you can to help people,” said a third.

Through your support, the story of these incredible young people was brought to thousands of listeners. You can hear the story, too — right here on knom.org.

Image at top: Producer Lauren Frost (right) poses for a “selfie” with one of the members of OPT In Kiana, middle school student Shaedyn Barr. Photo courtesy of Ms. Barr.

A woman fillets fresh fish at the Kiana youth summit.
Preparing dinner at the 2017 OPT In conference. Photo: Lauren Frost, KNOM.

Share this story


Recent Posts

Patrick Landback Wins Gold Dust Dash 5k Race

Waves crashed just feet away as a row of runners lined up on Nome’s East End Beach. Veronica Perez, a Summercise Intern for Norton Sound Health Corporation, announced to the 35 competitors of the Gold Dust Dash that it was time to get ready to race.  “Ladies and gentleman, start

Read More »

MS Westerdam Passengers Recall Icy Approach to Nome

Holland America’s MS Westerdam has arrived in Nome. The cruise ship that holds over 1,900 passengers is anchored just off the coast of Nome, too big to dock in the port. Small tenders that hold about 80 passengers each are ferrying visitors to and from the shore throughout the day.

Read More »

First-Ever KNOM Radio Music Fest Draws a Crowd, Drives Donations

Selma Casagranda serenaded audience members with a few of her original songs. Casagranda is from Seward and one of four finalists from KNOM’s 2023 American Idol search. Audience members joined the King Island dance group for an invitational dance. One of KNOM’s 2023 American Idol search finalists, Martin Paul of

Read More »



Work for Us:




(907) 443-5221 


(907) 868-1200 

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that KNOM Radio Mission is located on the customary lands of Indigenous peoples. 

Based in the Bering Strait region, KNOM broadcasts throughout the homelands of the Iñupiaq, Siberian Yup’ik, Cup’ik and Yup’ik peoples.