SLCC student learns to ‘Pass the mic’Mar 31, 2023 12:26PM ● By Rachel Aubrey
Part of teaching her children to be proud of their indigenous background, Peratrovich shares traditional practices in her son’s classroom at school (Photo courtesy of Valene Peratrovich).
Is it too much to ask of community news to share the voices of those that don’t often get heard?
Valene Peratrovich doesn’t think so.
In fact, Peratrovich, or Val to those closest to her, and others like her who work in community news feel that the more news and information we get from the lesser-known communities around us, the more understanding there will be.
Peratrovich, who joined KRCL 90.9 FM radio in February as a production assistant, did not grow up with aspirations of being a storyteller on a community radio show. But the fact is, she did grow up with unique stories as a part of her reality. An indigenous woman, Peratrovich, belongs to the Tlingit - Eagle Moiety, Unungan + Athabascan and grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. While some may hear stories from her childhood and focus only on the negative things they hear, for Peratrovich, those experiences helped her storytelling evolve.
Growing up in poverty, Peratrovich learned to recognize that those within her sphere of influence were social workers, teachers, and doctors. Wanting to make her family proud, she was intent to go into medicine and become a doctor, believing that it was that type of occupation which would take her out of that poverty cycle. Even after being granted a highly competitive Indian Health Services scholarship to study medicine, Peratrovich noticed something missing.
“I had all the resources there,” Peratrovich said. “But my passion and heart were not there.”
Peratrovich, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University in the human development and family sciences field, said she went into that area of study with the intention to help heal generational wounds encountered by her relatives.
“How can little girls who were abused, grow up and have families full of love if they were never given that,” Peratrovich said.
This background has helped to inform her on how to “be a better mom,” and give her kids the emotional stability that the previous generations did not have.
Another part of her story was witnessing her parents not able to proudly share their indigenous customs and practices with her and her siblings, admitting that at that time, there was a lot of shame and fear.
“I didn’t grow up with a lot of traditions, I had to seek them,” Peratrovich said. “I’m like a student, I’m always learning more and more.”
After several stints in various jobs and career paths, Peratrovich went in search of a way to tell stories. It was during this time of returning to school at Salt Lake Community College that Peratrovich was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer.
“School distracted me from thyroid cancer and Covid,” Peratrovich said. “Literally and figuratively, I was finding my voice.”
Peratrovich found humanity in storytelling and in so doing, found a way to share more about the traditions she has sought out for most of her adult life.
In April of 2022 she wrote an article as a student that was published in the Salt Lake Tribune in connection with Amplify Utah, a collaboration with SLCC, about the return of pow wow dances.
“We dance to tell a story,” Peratrovich said. “All dances are founded on storytelling and movements.”
Peratrovich and KRCL executive producer of public affairs talk show ‘Radioactive’ Lara Jones recently won first place at the Utah’s Society of Professional Journalists award for best public affairs talk show, the topic: exploring truths of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Jones got to know Peratrovich more than a year ago through course collaboration with Marcie Cancio Young at SLCC. It was because of these Zoom interactions that Jones recommended Peratrovich become involved in special programming on KRCL.
“[If] we have the same people behind the mic, it’s the same stories being told,” Jones said. “Val brings such a breadth of lived experience.”
Peratrovich earned an Associate of Applied Science in radio and television production in August of 2022 from Salt Lake Community College and is currently taking courses for film production.
Jones said individuals like Val are “stewards of the community resource” that is available to expand the conversation and challenge the mainstream.
“Val can connect with the community in ways that I can’t,” Jones said.
Peratrovich credits Jones in giving her the opportunity to go into the space of radio production and host and moderate the Thanksgiving show that would end up winning them recognition from the local journalism community.
Through this journey of family, school, parenthood, work, cancer, discovery, Peratrovich admitted that her family has had to make sacrifices for her to be able to tackle school while simultaneously working full-time at KRCL. She credits her husband, children and mother-in-law in being her support, and recalled that her six-year-old’s favorite moment of 2022 was watching his mom walk across the stage to get her diploma.
“I really want my kids to know early on, to listen to their spirit,” Peratrovich said. “I want to teach them to be proud.”
To listen to the Thanksgiving special on RadioActive visit https://krcl.org/blog/radioactive-112521/RadioActive is a weekly segment that airs at 6 p.m. and can be accessed via live stream at krcl.org/listen-live or via a free mobile app.