April 2021

“I have someone looking up to me”

A 2010 graduate of Soldotna High School, Chael Idzinski is pursuing a certificate in the diesel and heavy equipment technologies program at AVTEC, the vocational technical training center overseen by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Chael’s family includes his 3-year-old daughter, Lily-Ana.

By the time he was 28, Chael Idzinski had worked his way up from a technician’s job in a Soldotna-area tire shop to a management role. He went on to earn a commercial driver’s license and was operating heavy rigs for an Alaska trucking outfit when a group of students from AVTEC, the Alaska Vocational Technical Center in Seward, happened to visit on a field trip. The students were preparing for careers in industries that rely on diesel-engine equipment and Chael, a new parent determined to be his daughter’s role model, began to think seriously about going back to school.

“But whenever I thought about school or college, I thought about dorms and dorm rooms and being separated for some time from my loved ones,” Chael said. “That’s never a good idea to be away from family.”

When he learned that the trucking company turned to AVTEC for certified employees at higher salaries, Chael said he became interested in enrolling. His biggest challenge: Overcoming the thought that he could choose his family or school but not both. The solution: Family housing at AVTEC and a vocational scholarship through Doyon Foundation.

Doyon Foundation is committed to the success of students like Chael. Over the past five years, a third of Doyon Foundation scholarships have been awarded to students in programs leading to jobs that require a credential other than a four-year or advanced degree. Recent scholarship students have gone on to emerging occupations in business, health, home studies and trade. Vocational scholarships through Doyon Foundation include short-term awards for students in a program of fewer than 120 hours, as well as part-time and full-time basic scholarships and competitive scholarships for students in longer programs.

“Doyon Foundation helped me greatly,” Chael said. “Everyone I talk with has been so helpful. They pointed me in the right direction and had all the information I needed. Without them, who’s to know if I could have even started school.” In fact, Chael plans to continue at AVTEC beyond heavy equipment training to earn a welding certificate – advancing his future once again with Doyon Foundation help.

Heavy equipment, much of it diesel-engine powered, typically accounts for more than half the investment in businesses such as mining, construction, highway transportation and logging. AVTEC students learn to service, maintain and repair this complex equipment using technology like dedicated scan tools for diagnostics. The program attracts students with mechanical aptitude, a good work ethic and strong skills in reading and math.

AVTEC school days are organized as eight-hour workdays, a schedule not lost on Chael’s daughter, Lily-Ana. “She’ll say, ‘Is your school work, Dad?’ and I take some pride in having her see that I’m going to school every day,” Chael said. “I have someone looking up to me.”

The benefits of being a student even extend to his expanding toolbox.

“It’s interesting over time to gain the tools you need for every job you encounter,” Chael said. High-end toolmakers offer student discounts, sometimes up to half off the purchase price. Among his recent acquisitions: A 36-inch breaker bar when greater leverage is needed to break loose very tight fasteners. “It makes life so much easier,” Chael said.

“It’s never too late,” he said about his decision to return to school. “Mom and Dad always told me what I’d tell other students: Education is the easiest route to achieve your goals. And, yeah, it’s going to take some time and it may not be easy but it’s worth it!”

Are you a student enrolled part-time or full-time in a vocational or technical program? We encourage you to apply for a 2021 – 2022 competitive scholarship, specifically for vocational/technical students, and funded by the Alyeska Pipeline Native Scholarship Program. Deadline to apply is Monday, May 17, 2021. Learn more

RSVP to join us Friday, May 21 on Zoom

Graduates, alumni, family, friends and other supporters are invited to join Doyon Foundation for our 2021 virtual graduate reception! The event will take place via Zoom on Friday, May 21 at 1 p.m. AKDT.

To participate, please complete and submit our RSVP form by Thursday, May 20 at 5 p.m. Then, watch your email for the Zoom link to participate in the reception.

The reception will feature graduate speaker Taniesha Moses and alumna speaker Andrea Nield. Taniesha, from Northway, graduated May 1 from the University of Alaska Fairbanks with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Andrea, from Nultao, is a graduate of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where she received a bachelor’s of business administration, management and organizations.

If you are graduating this year, there is still time to complete our graduate information request form. We’ll feature the information you share in our 2021 electronic graduate yearbook and in our 2021 graduate video! Check out the 2020 graduate yearbook and 2020 graduate video.

While we’ll miss coming together in person again this year, we are pleased that the virtual format will allow students and supporters from across the state and country to participate.

We hope you can join us to celebrate the Class of 2021! Please complete our RSVP form today, and watch your email for the Zoom link to participate in the reception.

Tiffany Simmons to assume Doyon Foundation executive director role May 17

Doyon Foundation and Doyon, Limited are pleased to announce Tiffany Simmons as the nonprofit organization’s new executive director. Simmons will assume the role, based at the Foundation’s office in Fairbanks, beginning Monday, May 17, 2021.

“Doyon Foundation is delighted to welcome Tiffany Simmons as our new executive director, to lead and grow the Foundation to the next level,” said Jennifer Fate, president of the Foundation’s board of directors and secretary of the Doyon, Limited board. “Tiffany brings a wealth of skills in program development, workforce services, culturally driven initiatives, strategic partnerships, and educational scholarships – all critical growth areas we care about at the Foundation. We are very excited to have Tiffany fill this key leadership position in the state.”

A Doyon, Limited shareholder, Simmons is Central Koyukon Athabascan and was raised in the Yukon River communities of Koyukuk and Galena. She is the daughter of Marie Simmons and the late James Walldow, and her grandparents are the late Sidney and Angela and Jennie Huntington. Simmons raised her two children, Traven and Tessa Sweetsir, in Fairbanks, where she currently resides with her husband, Harold Attla.

Simmons graduated from the Galena City High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She has extensive experience working with tribal members and tribal governments in various management and senior leadership positions. In her free time, Simmons enjoys beading, sewing, teaching others to bead and sew, and getting out on the rivers and land.

“Over 20 years ago, the Doyon Foundation provided invaluable support to me in various ways as I experienced obstacles in the beginning of my educational journey,” Simmons said. “I am excited to be in a role where I can now return that support to fellow shareholders as they pursue their academic dreams.”

Doyon Foundation was established as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in 1989 by Doyon, Limited, the Alaska Native regional corporation for Interior Alaska. As the private foundation for Doyon, Limited, it serves the educational and cultural needs of Doyon’s shareholders and their children. Since inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $11.6 million in scholarships to students pursuing higher education and vocational training. Through the Foundation’s language revitalization program, established in 2012, efforts are underway to revitalize the languages of the Doyon region, which represent half of the 20 Native languages in the state of Alaska.

Learn more about Doyon Foundation and its efforts at www.doyonfoundation.com.

Submit auditions online by May 14 deadline

Doyon Foundation is working with WGBH Boston to produce two dubbed episodes of the PBS Kids’ show Molly of Denali in two of the Native languages of the Doyon region: Denaakk’e (Koyukon) and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in).

Doyon Foundation is currently seeking actors to record the character voices for three lead roles: Molly, Tooey and Trini, as well as various adult and minor roles. Actors will be compensated. No previous acting experience is required. While actors do not need to be fluent speakers of Denaakk’e (Koyukon) and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), those with familiarity or connection to the languages are preferred. Language coaches will be provided.

Interested actors should download one of the script excerpt options from the Doyon Foundation website, then record and submit an audio recording of their audition, along with a current headshot and resume. Auditions should be submitted via the submission form posted at www.doyonfoundation.com. Auditions will be accepted through the deadline of Friday, May 14, 2021.

Audition tip: If you have an iPhone, you can use voice memos to record the audition. Be sure to speak clearly and smile when you are speaking – it helps bring added energy to your audition!

The voice recording will take place in Fairbanks, Alaska. While actors do not need to be from Fairbanks, please note that travel and accommodations will not be provided to actors from outside the area.

Denaakk’e (Koyukon) and Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in) versions of two previously produced Molly of Denali episodes will be created; each episode features two stories. The episodes will be utilized in Doyon region language revitalization efforts.  

The Molly of Denali project is one of the current efforts of Doyon Foundation’s language revitalization program. The 10 ancestral languages of the Doyon region, including nine Athabascan languages plus Inupiaq, represent half of the 20 Native languages in state of Alaska, and are all endangered. Through efforts such as Molly of Denali, Doyon Languages Online, and the Our Language grant program, Doyon Foundation works to revitalize the Native languages of the Doyon region and help endangered languages thrive for future generations.

For more information, please visit www.doyonfoundation.com or contact Allan Hayton, Doyon Foundation language revitalization program director, at haytona@doyon.com or 907.459.2162.

Funded by the Alyeska Pipeline Native Scholarship Program; Apply by May 17

Doyon Foundation students enrolled in vocational/technical programs are encouraged to apply for a 2021 – 2022 competitive scholarship, funded by the Alyeska Pipeline Native Scholarship Program. Both part-time and full-time vocational students are eligible to apply. The application deadline is Monday, May 17, 2021, at 11:59 p.m.

“This scholarship is optimal for students who are pursuing a vocational education while also working,” says Purestyn Milk, Doyon Foundation scholarship manager. “We understand the difficulties of balancing work with school, and we’re grateful for Alyeska’s partnership to help support these students.”

The scholarship is specifically for students in programs focused on one of the following discipline areas:

  • Heavy equipment/diesel mechanics
  • Process technology/instrumentation
  • Construction
  • Welding
  • Electrical training
  • CDL

To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must:

  • Be enrolled to Doyon, Limited or be the child of an original enrollee
  • Be accepted or enrolled in a one- to three-year program in one of the focus discipline areas (described above)
  • Maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0

To apply, interested students should complete Doyon Foundation’s 2021 – 2022 competitive scholarship application, available online at www.doyonfoundation.com. Note that students will not apply specifically for the Alyeska scholarship, but should complete the general competitive scholarship application. The applications will then be reviewed following the Foundation’s competitive scholarship review process.

For additional details on eligibility and the application and selection process, please review the Foundation’s scholarship resource handbook. Applications are due no later than Monday, May 17, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Applications must be submitted online via the Foundation website.

For more information or assistance, please contact Doyon Foundation at scholarships@doyon.com or 907.459.2048.

Doyon Foundation is pleased to welcome Myles Creed as our Doyon Languages Online project assistant. In this role, Myles will assist with the coordination and implementation of the Doyon Languages Online II project, with a special emphasis on developing a community of speakers and learners.

Myles was born in Fairbanks and raised in Kotzebue, Alaska. His parents are John Creed and Susan Andrews, who grew up in Massachusetts and Maryland, respectively, and moved to Kotzebue in the 1970s/1980s. His ancestry is English, Irish and French.

Myles attended Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, Alaska, and Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, studying communication. He continued on at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, receiving a Master of Arts in general linguistics. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics at the University of Victoria.

Myles has been interested and involved with Inupiaq language revitalization for several years and is a founding member of the Iḷisaqativut Language Collective. Myles enjoys running, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

Doyon Languages Online is a Doyon Foundation effort to develop online language-learning lessons for nine of the 10 endangered Native languages of the Doyon region, including Benhti Kokhut’ana Kenaga’ (Lower Tanana), Deg Xinag , Denaakk’e (Koyukon), Dihthaad Xt’een Iin Aanděeg’ (Tanacross), Dinak’i (Upper Kuskokwim), Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in), Hän, Holikachuk and Nee’aanèegn’ (Upper Tanana). Once completed, the lessons will be available for free to all interested language learners.

For more information on the Doyon Foundation team and Doyon Languages Online, visit www.doyonfoundation.com.

Cosmo the dog, from New Mexico

Thank you to our speakers Kenneth Frank and Caroline Tritt-Frank for sharing our April 2021 Native Word of the Month in Dinjii Zhuh K’yaa (Gwich’in),

Łąįį  = Dog

Kenneth Frank: Shijyaa, łąįį daanch’yaa ni’ii? = My friend, how many dogs do you have?

Caroline Tritt-Frank: Łąįį ch’ihłak shi’ii. = I have one dog.

For more translations, view our Native word of the month archives on the Foundation website.

We also invite you to access free online language-learning lessons by signing up for Doyon Languages Online! We currently have lessons available for HolikachukDenaakk’eBenhti Kenaga’ and Gwich’in, as well as a special set of Hän lessons based on the work of the late Isaac Juneby. All interested learners may sign up and access the courses at no charge – sign up today!