K’eegwaadhat t’aih shats’an ahtsii…Yeendaa leii agwahal’ee geenjit. Nigwizhii, nich’eet’eegwiniindhan khit shaa’ooli’.

God give me strength…So I may learn much in the future. May your wisdom and love always be with me. (Gwich’in)

These are the words that marked the start of the 2015 Doyon Foundation Scholarship Award Ceremony on September 11 in Fairbanks. Allan Hayton, the Foundation’s language revitalization program director, wrote the prayer as a blessing for the students as they began a new semester.

The ceremony, which took place in the Doyon Industrial Facility cafeteria, celebrated the Foundation’s 277 fall scholarship recipients. A total of $342,000 in scholarships, including full-time basic, part-time basic and competitive scholarships, was awarded this fall. These were the first awarded since the Foundation board approved a significant increase of scholarship amounts earlier this year. Read more about the increase on the Foundation blog.

Among the scholarships awarded was the Vincent Troy Williams Memorial Scholarship, created in memory of Vincent “Troy” Williams by his sister, Kristie Williams-Cuttriss. Vincent was just 24 years old when he died in a work-related accident on the North Slope in 1987.

“We created the scholarship because we know that what we give and what others give today will collectively help future generations attend college. Creating this opportunity for others is important not only for our family personally, but for our entire community,” Kristie said.

Approximately 50 people attended the celebration, including about a dozen scholarship recipients. Among the guests were alumna speaker Jessica Black, a PhD candidate in social work and an assistant professor/special projects liaison in the Office of the Vice Chancellor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), and student speaker Joseph Bifelt, a Committee’s Choice competitive scholarship recipient and student at UAF pursuing a bachelor’s degree in secondary education.

During her address, Jessica shared about how she lives life to the fullest in the form of the mnemonic “wonder,” which she went on to explain means:

W = Working hard.

O = Own your goals and create the life you want.

N = Never doubt yourself.

D = Determination.

E = Enjoy the journey.

R = Reward yourself.

Joseph shared with the audience why he is pursuing a degree in secondary audience. “Growing up in the village, I witnessed many teachers come and go. We, the students, were not really able to build trusting, respectful teacher-student relationships with them because they did not necessarily understand our culture and who we were. I feel that I would be able to relate very well to the rural Alaskan students and have the ability to help them build brighter futures both for themselves and their community.”

View videos of Jessica’s speech and Joseph’s speech.

The event also included acknowledgement of the Foundation’s donors and supporters. The Foundation extended a special thank you to Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC), which doubled its donation to the Foundation’s health competitive scholarship from $5,000 to $10,000 this year.

The ceremony culminated with introductions by the scholarship recipients in attendance, a post-ceremony reception, and a photo booth where students, staff and supporters showed off their silly side by wearing props and holding an oversized scholarship check.

“This is an exciting day, and the Doyon Foundation team thought the photo booth would be a fun addition to the celebration,” said Doris Miller, the Foundation’s executive director.