High costs, low temperatures and polar bears are only some of the challenges for the people who call Barrow, Alaska home. For more than 4,000 residents of the state's northernmost city, only one thing is for sure: it isn't easy.
Barrow sits 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It's a place where grass doesn't grow, the roads aren't paved, and snow falls in August. It's a proud community with a rich whaling tradition. It's also a community that has long battled to overcome substance abuse and an alarming high-school dropout rate that has plagued the community.
"It's pretty bad," said senior football player Warren Kagak. "I think it's taking over Barrow right now."
Six years ago school officials came up with an answer that was like something out of a dream: giving students the opportunity to play a sport that they'd only seen on TV, offering an outlet for kids who didn't fit in anywhere else. That dream was football, and the program which eventually formed the Barrow Whalers.
"They aren't the basketball stars," said Ben Voss, a senior on the team. "They aren't the tall people, they aren't the quick people. It gives them a chance to do something."
Today, football has found a home on the Last Frontier, helping keep kids off the streets and engaged in school.
"We've got three or four players right now that I don't know if they would be in school if it weren't for football," said Whalers head coach Brad Igou.
One of those players is Warren Kagak, a senior who has struggled to find his place for years.
"I couldn't do anything," Kagak said. "I was a failure."
For Warren, football held the key, serving as an inspiration to turn his life around.
"It changed my life a lot," Kagak said. "I used to be mixed up with drugs and alcohol."
The senior isn't just cleaning up his life, but also working to help others as well.
"All of the students that aren't in football, they just have drugs and alcohol taking over them," Kagak said. "I try to push every one of my friends that are into that. I try to push them and push them into sports."
For Warren, triumph on the field has lead to success as in the classroom.
"Football was the reason why I turned my grades around," said Kagak. "I don't want my family to be put down because of all my failure back then. I'm happy for myself right now, I want to graduate."
In Barrow, football isn't just making a big impact in the classroom. It's also playing a role in changing the way players view themselves.
"I think it does make a difference in their character," Igou said. "I think it makes a difference in how they present themselves and how they carry themselves. I think they have an air of confidence, which comes with the mental and physical toughness that you get from this sport."
While it hasn't always been easy, the success of the program can now be felt throughout the community.
"The problems have lessened here in Barrow," Voss said. "There aren't as many kids who are dropping out. Our attendance rate at school has gone up, our grades have gone up -- everything about this town is going up."
Despite the success, some people in town think the tens of thousands of dollars it costs to field a team is just too expensive.