Two-time Olympian and APU Alumni, Lars Flora (’13), graduated with his Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. Lars is the executive director of Nordic Journeys, a nonprofit organization with its goal to “get Alaska skiing”. It’s two main programs; NANA Nordic, and SkiKu (ski + siku: Inupiaq for ice, ciku: Yupik for ice) operate in villages across Alaska.
The program sends volunteer coaches out to rural Alaskan communities to promote a healthy lifestyle through cross country skiing and other recreational activities. The NANA Nordic program was Lars’ senior project at APU.
Lars shared how his experience as an Olympian led him to complete his education at APU and launch the non-profit. “I had a passion for skiing and I wanted to be around people with the same goal. Those people were at APU. Being surrounded by people with a similar goal and listening to other students talk about their projects motivated me to achieve my goal, like being a top athlete and helping others learn to ski”.
Our collaborative culture allowed Lars to observe and interact with the teaching styles of Rusty Meyers, Carl Tobin, David McGivern, and Roman Dial. “APU was a part of the inspiration to do the ski program. The way professors think and set up classes helped me understand how to organize the ski program. I used the active learning model when I decided to have our volunteers in each village for a week to teach kids how to ski. Its something you can’t learn in the classroom”.
Over 20 volunteers for the program are APU students, teachers and alumni. Skiku works with 29 communities across Alaska and NANA Nordic works with the eleven NANA villages. Over 4500 students have learned to ski.
“APU is at the heart of the city and state. Donations go towards the unique campus, and making the trails available to everyone in the area – not just students. The campus and university is beneficial to the whole city”.