Student Profile


School is definitely a marathon! Take care of yourself”

– Shondiin Mayo

Shondiin Mayo is the daughter of Violet Hunt of Ts’aa Bii Kin, Arizona, and Randy Mayo of Stevens Village. Her maternal grandparents are the late Jean Tallman of Ts’aa Bii Kin, Arizona, and Harry Hunt of Naataanii Nez, New Mexico. Shondiin’s paternal grandparents are Marjorie Sam of Stevens Village and the late Tucky Mayo of Rampart.

Shondiin earned a bachelor’s degree in 2021 from Northern Arizona University (NAU), where she studied creative media and film with an emphasis in documentary filmmaking. She’s pursuing a Master of Arts degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and, in summer 2021, was among student interns at the Doyon Family of Companies. Shondiin’s hometown is Steven Village.

Doyon Foundation: Congratulations on being among Doyon, Limited summer interns, a program aimed at giving students a chance to learn about their Alaska Native corporation and gain resume-building skills.

Shondiin Mayo: Thanks! I’ll be working on nonpartisan efforts to promote “Get Out the Native Vote.” I’m excited to work on projects to let voters know that Election Day is Tuesday, October 5. It’s part of a nationwide effort to protect voting rights and encourage American Indians and Alaska Native people to vote.

I’ve learned a lot about the importance of voting and the history of voting rights for Indigenous people. I’m so thankful for the chance to apply my skills and knowledge as an intern. I wanted to understand more about Doyon, Limited because it plays a big role in a shareholder’s life.

DF: And after your internship?

SM: Starting in the fall, I’ll be a master’s student in the Arctic and Northern Studies Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). I’m really looking forward to learning more about the circumpolar north that we call home. Beyond that, I’d like to pursue a doctorate at UAF and then contribute to my people and the community in a job I’m passionate about.

I’m excited to take next steps in my education – I’m still learning about myself – and Doyon Foundation’s financial support helps in immense ways. Students like me can pursue our goals. I’m eternally grateful.

DF: What did you learn about deciding on a college major? Students sometimes find this challenging.

SM: I had several majors before finding the creative media and film program at my university. Even before I entered the program, I found that I really enjoyed helping friends with their film projects. Filmmaking combines the freedom to tell a story in a creative way with the responsibility of sharing your perspective with an audience.

DF: So you built on what you were most naturally interested in and suited to.

SM: Yes. I found that everyone in the NAU cohort was committed to storytelling. That shared purpose fostered camaraderie throughout our projects. And it was super interesting to learn that filmmaking needs a lot of research in the pre-production stage. For instance, there’s immense effort that goes into drafting schedules, choosing equipment and completing a light study to control shadows and maintain the contrast in a scene.

DF: And beyond the classroom? What was it like attending a university so far from home?

SM: That was the biggest challenge – being far from family and a familiar environment. It was difficult to adjust to at first. A tip for success I’d like to pass along is the importance of finding a support system, whatever shape it takes. Take care of yourself!

School is definitely a marathon, but it was also very exhilarating to explore new surroundings, to visit other states, and to make new friends. It’s a chance to grow as a person. And I knew that Alaska would always be home, it would always be there.

DF: You enjoy volunteer projects that sound as if they could be movie sets!

SM: That’s true. I volunteer with the Fairbanks Outboard Association and now that I’ve returned to Alaska, I hope to volunteer with the Alaska Dog Mushers Association – so yes, I like these environments because of all the energy and the people in the crowd.

Boat races are such great events for the community. And think of the sound of all those dog teams that just want to get on the track and get going. It’s exciting!

Each month, Doyon Foundation profiles a different student or alumni If you are interested in being highlighted in a student profile, please click here to complete a short questionnaire. To complete the alumnus profile questionnaire, please click here.

A sailor’s advice: Keep studying and stay the course 

A seaman on escort tugboats based in Valdez, Jordan Irwin is the son of Michael Irwin of Nenana and Veronica Lord Irwin of Yakutat. His maternal grandparents are Gilbert and Nellie Lord of Yakutat and his paternal grandparents are Jack and Jenny Irwin of Nenana. Jordan’s family includes his girlfriend, Melanie Rodriguez, and her three children, aged 14 to 21.

Jordan Irwin traces a lifelong love of the water to his growing-up years in Juneau, where he attended Juneau-Douglas High School and began working on commercial fishing boats. Jobs on the North Slope and as a truck driver led him to look for a career that combined interests in travel, the outdoors and the sea. Although both of his parents earned advanced degrees, Jordan left high school with just one credit to go. He earned his GED in 2011.

“I was sick of school,” he recalled. “I like to be outdoors hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, doing photography. Being in an office, behind a computer, just wasn’t for me.” He credits his girlfriend, Melanie, for inspiration to continue his education at 41. “I believe everything happens for a reason,” Jordan said.

In 2013, he returned to school, first to attend the AVTEC Maritime Training Center, a Coast Guard-approved training center in Seward, and then in 2020 to enroll in Seattle-based MITAGS, the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies. A short-term vocational scholarship from Doyon Foundation helped Jordan complete radar training at MITAGS in 2020. He’s working toward additional credentials, eventually leading to the rank of captain or licensed third mate responsible for driving a vessel. “I know I can do it,” Jordan said.  

A professional highlight in 2010 involved him in oil-spill response at Point Lena, where a cruise ship ran aground near Juneau and sank in 1952 with an estimated 300,000 gallons of bunker fuel and oily water aboard. Jordan was employed by a contractor working to extract hazardous material, which was transported to a waste-oil recycling center. Salvage required divers to pump oil at 200 feet and took about a month, Jordan said, adding, “Nothing leaked.”

Today, Jordan works on tugboats operated by Edison Choest Offshore (ECO), a marine transportation services company contracted to Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. ECO provides spill response and escort tugboats for North Slope oil tankers transiting Prince William Sound. A typical workday may see Jordan help dock or undock two tankers a day as they arrive or depart the oil pipeline terminus at Valdez. Tug escort begins and ends at Cape Hinchinbrook, about 80 miles from the Valdez port.

Merchant mariners like Jordan advance by completing a series of credentials, known as endorsements, to qualify for higher wages on larger vessels and in highly skilled categories such as the bridge, where navigation occurs. To realize his goal of becoming captain, Jordan is completing courses at MITAGS and the Alaska Maritime Training Center as his budget and work schedule permit. Typical shifts are two months at sea followed by one month at home. MITAGS courses may run four weeks and cost $10,000 each, prompting Jordan to rely on help from his parents as well as scholarships from Native corporations in addition to Doyon Foundation.

He’s optimistic about his career and realistic about his time and finances. “The maritime industry will always be around,” Jordan said. “There are great opportunities.” Long stretches away from home are hard, but worth the sacrifice so that his family has a future, he said. His advice to other students: “Keep studying and stay the course.”

Doyon Foundation is pleased to provide scholarship funding to vocational students like Jordan. In addition to the short-term vocational scholarship, which cover the cost of the course or training up to $3,000, vocational students are also eligible for the Foundation’s basic scholarships, which range from $1,600 to $2,400 per semester, and competitive scholarships, which range from $7,000 to $11,000. Learn more about the Foundation’s vocational scholarship opportunities on our blog.

A University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) student graduating in 2021, Rebekah Gidinatiy Hartman is the daughter of Michael and Angela Hartman. Her maternal grandparents are Alice and Rudy Demientieff of Holy Cross. Rebekah’s hometown is Wasilla. 

Two years ago, Doyon Foundation student Rebekah Hartman was the keynote speaker at a Foundation event, where she shared about her educational journey and how the Foundation scholarship program was helping her reach her goal of graduating from UAF with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in printmaking.

At the event, she met Allan Hayton, director of the Foundation’s language revitalization program, who shared that he was looking for artists to submit work for a book project being led by the Foundation. Fast-forward a year and Hartman just completed a series of illustrations that will be featured in the Foundation’s soon-to-be released Our Languages Everyday Activity Book, designed to help families incorporate Native language learning into their daily lives.

Rebekah Hartman’s art will be featured in Doyon Foundation’s upcoming Our Languages Everyday Activity Book

“I was interested to take on this project because working for Doyon Foundation is a great opportunity and it helps me feel more connected to my language,” Hartman says. “I hope my illustrations will help others too.”

Hartman credits the award-winning animated children’s program “Steven Universe” with helping set the course for her future. “Those are the types of shows I want to work on,” she says. The Cartoon Network adventure series tells the story of friends protecting their own kind in a fictionalized world. “Growing up, I did not really know anything about LGBTQ+ people — I thought they were strange. It was shows like ‘Steven Universe’ that made me realize I was wrong.”

“What attracts me to animation is that, first of all, it’s beautiful and second is the impact that animated stories can have,” Hartman says. “I want to work on stories that are meaningful and inclusive.”

An active volunteer focused on projects to benefit Alaska Native people, Hartman served as student club secretary of the Alaska Native Social Workers Association in the 2019 – 2020 school year. The UAF group’s purpose includes service to others and promoting awareness of Alaska Native cultures in the state. At the winter holidays, Hartman helped make greeting cards for the Fairbanks Native Association Elder Program. She has volunteered with First Alaskans Institute, an Anchorage-based public policy and research group, and with the Elders and Youth Conference sponsored by Alaska Federation of Natives.

One of the pieces Rebekah Hartman created for her fall BFA art show

Hartman hopes other students will be attentive to mental health, especially if interest in school or self-confidence starts to slip. “What I’ve found helpful to address these emotions is going to counseling,” she shares. “It helps clear my mind and to understand myself better.”

As part of her graduation requirements, Hartman will have her BFA thesis exhibition this fall, from September 7 – 17 at the UAF Fine Arts Gallery. Her opening reception takes place Thursday, September 9, from 5 – 7 p.m. “My show theme is Dinayetr ‘Our Breath’: Deg Xinag Language Revitalization. It is about seeing the word and an image with it to help a person remember it.“

“My work in Dinayetr ‘Our Breath’: Deg Xinag Language Revitalization is about creating visual representations of the Deg Xinag language. I create art based on words and phrases from the Deg Xinag online dictionary. My art is centered around a desire to reclaim my family’s Athabascan language, a language skill that was taken from my family due to the prevalence of colonial boarding schools. My artwork is united by a sense of whimsy and wordplay. For instance, my etching titled Yix Xidina’ Yi’idituq, which translates to the Deg Xinag phrase ‘the house spirits jump up,’ is a lively and illustrative image of a girl violently sneezing, startling the house spirits. One example of the wordplay I employ in my art is my print of a dragonfly on a shield. In Deg Xinag, dragonfly or ‘Siq’angine’ literally means ‘protect me,’ which I have visually represented through the shield on my print. The majority of my artwork in this exhibition is created through prints and digital art. My overall goal for this exhibit is to make it easier for people to learn Deg Xinag. Having multiple modes of representation, including visual art, makes language revitalization more accessible to other Deg Xit’an people,” reads Hartman’s artist statement.

After graduating this fall, Hartman plans to attend art school to earn a master’s degree in animation. “I want to work on a show that includes Indigenous people,” she said. “We are constantly forgotten in television and when we are included, there are usually stereotypes.”

Among her favorite animated series is “Molly of Denali,” a first-of-its kind children’s show whose main character is an Alaska Native person. “My goal,” Hartman says, “is to create meaningful stories for people to watch.”

Keep an eye on the Foundation’s website and social media channels for upcoming announcements about the Our Languages Everyday Activity Book, featuring art by Hartman.

“Goals influence all of your decisions”

In honor of our 2021 Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, we’d like to introduce you to another one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Shane Derendoff. This is the last in our series of student profiles highlighting our 2020 – 2021 Morris Thompson students and honoring their hard work and achievements, leading up to the event on June 17. For 20 years, the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic has raised money for student scholarships while honoring the memory of inspirational Native leader, the late Morris Thompson.

A software developer based in North Pole, Shane Derendoff is the son of Cece Derendoff-Nollner and Francis Nollner, both of Huslia. His maternal grandparents are Angeline Happy and Richard Derendoff, both of Cutoff-Huslia. Cutoff, a flood-prone site, was established in the 1920s and eventually relocated to the area known today as Huslia.

Shane has served as president of the Doyon Foundation board and is a past director of the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center in Fairbanks. His hometown is the Koyukon Athabascan community of Huslia.

Shane Derendoff believes that setting goals for yourself — including goals that others may consider far-fetched — are a key to steady success.

“It never hurts to ask,” he said. “These goals influence all of your decisions from that point forward, most times subconsciously.” Pursuing higher education is among self-assigned goals he values, but he’s realistic about obstacles.

“My challenge has been to keep motivated, to keep pushing to completion,” he said. “Often it’s easier to just get a job and make a wage. But sticking to your educational goals will pay long-term dividends and raise your potential career ceiling.”

Shane earned a bachelor of science degree in 1998 from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he was a recipient of Doyon Foundation scholarships. Before enrolling in the master’s of business administration (MBA) program at Alaska Pacific University (APU), where his emphasis is information technology, he served as technical service manager at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and owned Koyukon Consulting. He anticipates graduating from APU in 2022.

After completing his undergraduate degree, Shane went on to volunteer for several years on the Doyon Foundation board. “I gained key nonprofit experience,” he said. “Once I started my MBA, Doyon Foundation has funded me each step of the way.”

Shane plans to continue working as a software developer while attending APU and then start a consulting practice after graduation. His interests are management and nonprofit and leadership training. He enjoys seeking out other professionals whose early-career experiences mesh with his own. And he makes time for traditional activities such as hunting, wood-cutting and helping Elders.

“Doyon Foundation has been a key part of my educational and professional background,” he said.

Named in honor of the late Morris Thompson, former president and CEO of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson scholarship, awarded by Doyon Foundation, has helped more than 200 students forward their education. The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic raises money for this competitive scholarship fund. The 20th annual golf classic will take place Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Fairbanks. To learn more, visit the Foundation website or contact golf@doyon.com.  

Doyon Foundation scholarships help me share diversity within health care-related discussions”

– Hannah Bagot

In honor of our upcoming 2021 Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, we’d like to introduce you to another one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Hannah Bagot. This is the latest in our series of student profiles highlighting our 2020 – 2021 Morris Thompson students and honoring their hard work and achievements, leading up to the event on June 17. For 20 years, the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic has raised money for student scholarships while honoring the memory of inspirational Native leader, the late Morris Thompson.

A graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hannah Bagot is the daughter of Michael and Helen Bagot. Hannah recently completed a master’s degree in health care administration and graduated in May 2021. Her hometown is Pleasanton, California.

Hannah recalls searching out college programs to find one that matched her goals. It’s a path familiar to many students on their way to a rewarding career.

“I explored other majors in health care but they never seemed to be the right fit,” Hannah said, adding that obstacles like these can feel like failure.

“But through volunteering, working and internships, I eventually came to find the right profession for me,” she said. Hannah has volunteered at hospitals in North Carolina and in Utah, where she worked with a physical fitness program for children with special needs.

“My biggest piece of advice for other students is to take opportunities and try new things even if they’re not in your scope of interest or field of study. Everything can be a learning experience,” she said.

“You never know where you will pick up new skills, meet new people, or discover new passions. Try not to compare yourself with others.”

Scholarships from Doyon Foundation have helped Hannah attend schools to gain professional and academic skills for success in health care. “Doyon Foundation has made it possible for me to pursue a graduate degree in a field I’m passionate about,” she said. “Doyon Foundation scholarships have given me the opportunity to share diversity within health care-related discussions.”

After her recent graduation in May 2021, Hannah’s plans include serving as the Health Policy and Management Fellow for Hoag Hospital and Orthopedic Institute in Orange County, California.

Named in honor of the late Morris Thompson, former president and CEO of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson scholarship, awarded by Doyon Foundation, has helped more than 200 students forward their education. The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic raises money for this competitive scholarship fund. The 20th annual golf classic will take place Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Fairbanks. There are still opportunities to support the event as a sponsor or volunteer; to learn more and get involved, visit the Foundation website or contact golf@doyon.com.  

“Doyon Foundation has made my dreams possible”

In honor of our upcoming 2021 Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, we’d like to introduce you to another one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Calee Stark. This is the latest in our series of student profiles highlighting our 2020 – 2021 Morris Thompson students and honoring their hard work and achievements, leading up to the event on June 17. For 20 years, the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic has raised money for student scholarships while honoring the memory of inspirational Native leader, the late Morris Thompson.

An undergraduate at the University of Washington (UW), Calee Stark is the daughter of Emily Pitka of Fairbanks, Alaska, and Wes Stark, raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Calee plans to study psychology with the goal of becoming a physician assistant following her graduation from UW in 2023. Her hometown is Fairbanks.

As a student with an interest in autism, Calee Stark believes that one of the best things about her career field – health care – is that it doesn’t yet have all the answers. “Many things remain unknown that we can one day hope to discover,” she says.

Calee traces her commitment to medicine after witnessing care extended to an uncle who was treated for cancer. “Watching the nurses and physicians attempt to do everything they could inspired me to want to improve the level of care in the future,” she shares.

Her short-term goal includes continuing her work as a certified nursing assistant at a Seattle nursing home and eventually serving her community as a physician assistant (PA) in hospitals. Working under a doctor’s supervision, PAs often are among the first medical staff that a patient meets. Physician assistants may examine and diagnose injury or illness, treat and educate patients, and prescribe medicine, among other primary care duties undertaken by doctors.

“Doyon Foundation has made my dreams of working in the medical field possible,” Calee says. “It allowed me to focus on my studies and not stress about how to afford my education. I’m beyond grateful for that.”

A member of organizations aimed at advancing the interests of Indigenous students, Calee belongs to First Nations at UW, an intertribal group focusing on culture and traditions, and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society. Her future plans include taking part in a clinical internship with Apex Summer Camp through the UW Autism Center. The camp offers student interns a chance to gain research insight while it helps children build social and behavioral skills.

Calee, who graduated from high school in 2019, says that college students who encounter challenging courses may benefit from re-thinking what they’ve learned about learning: Strategies that served her well in high school were falling short at a competitive university that attracted other bright students.

“For a while I struggled to learn how to properly study,” she shares. “This was a challenge because I wasn’t used to asking for help.” She soon found on-campus sites for academic advising. Calee says she benefited from more efficient study habits as well as learning the rewards of asking for help. “That ended up being the solution to my problem,” she says.

Her advice to other students: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if you think they may sound obvious.

“If you’re struggling in a class, acknowledge that but don’t let it continue for long,” she advises. “More opportunities started lining up for me when I started to ask questions.” That led her to realize that many people are willing to help: “Just ask!” 

Named in honor of the late Morris Thompson, former president and CEO of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson scholarship, awarded by Doyon Foundation, has helped more than 200 students forward their education. The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic raises money for this competitive scholarship fund. The 20th annual golf classic will take place Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Fairbanks. There are many opportunities to support the event as a sponsor, golfer or volunteer; to learn more and get involved, visit the Foundation website or contact golf@doyon.com.  

“Thank you so much for your academic support of Alaska Native students!”

– Core LePore

In honor of our upcoming 2021 Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic, we’d like to introduce you to one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Cory LePore. This is the latest in our series of student profiles highlighting our 2020 – 2021 Morris Thompson students and honoring their hard work and achievements, leading up to the event on June 17. For 20 years, the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic has raised money for student scholarships while honoring the memory of inspirational Native leader, the late Morris Thompson.

Cory LePore is currently an MBA student with a finance concentration at Alaska Pacific University, and will be completing his program this summer. Previously, Cory earned an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in 2018, and received his master of arts degree in economics from the University of Hawaii Manoa in spring 2020. He is a member of the International Economics Honor Society, which recognizes scholastic achievement. Originally from Bethel, Cory is the son of Cory LePore, Sr. and Cindy LePore, both of Bethel. His maternal grandparents are Beverly Turner and Thaddeus Tikiun, both of Holy Cross.

Doyon Foundation: Congratulations on receiving your master’s in economics last spring. What attracts you to that field?

Cory LePore: Our world has many economic challenges that we’re facing daily and the fact that there’s no one correct way to approach those problems is so fascinating. Studying economics provides me with skills to make an impact on those problems throughout my lifetime.

DF: Economics is famous for being a difficult field, one that requires good ability in math and statistics as well as an understanding of human behavior.

CL: My biggest challenge has been trying to find my proper way to study. I found myself trying to cram math material into my brain the night before an exam and I ended up doing subpar.

I was in my first year as undergraduate at UAF when I found a way to study that suited me. I realized I’d have to dedicate more time and effort. I tried breaking my study time into several days, usually starting a week before an exam, and then study a couple of hours a day. I saw a massive change for the better in my grades.

I found this approach by trying all sorts of study techniques. I tried studying in a group and using flash cards. I’d read and research different strategies online.

DF: Your advice to other students is to remember that teachers and advisers are there to help. How did you learn this lesson? Why do you think so many students overlook these sources of help?

CL: I think they’re afraid. Students tend to think that teachers are there to teach and that’s it. But in reality, most teachers love when you interact with them outside of class. It shows you’re willing to challenge yourself and that you really want to learn the topic.

DF: Other than finishing your MBA this summer – an incredible accomplishment – what’s next for you?

CL: I am actually working full-time with Alaska USA as a financial analyst! I will probably be in some sort of financial position in the near future. 

DF: How did Doyon Foundation scholarships help you?

CL: I was able to just take my classes and focus on school. Doyon Foundation scholarships freed up so much of my time and stress by allowing me to not have to work full time while in school.

Thank you so much for your academic support of Alaska Native students. It’s very much appreciated!

Named in honor of the late Morris Thompson, former president and CEO of Doyon, Limited, the Morris Thompson scholarship, awarded by Doyon Foundation, has helped more than 200 students forward their education. The annual Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic raises money for this competitive scholarship fund. The 20th annual golf classic will take place Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Fairbanks. There are many opportunities to support the event as a sponsor, golfer or volunteer; to learn more and get involved, visit the Foundation website or contact golf@doyon.com.  

“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

Our Elders and young ones hold a special place in my heart”

Amber Steinhilpert is the daughter of Ada Chapman of Tanacross and Charles Steinhilpert, Jr. of Anchorage. Amber’s maternal grandparents are the late Louise Luke and Wayne Chapman, and her paternal grandparents are the late Ramona Butler and Charles Steinhilpert, Sr.  

Amber attends Alvernia University in Reading, Pennsylvania, where she has earned Dean’s List honors while pursuing a bachelor of science degree in nursing. She plays NCAA Division III women’s hockey for the Alvernia Golden Wolves and plans to graduate in 2023. Her hometown is Anchorage. 

Doyon Foundation: You’ll soon be in clinical training — an intensive job shadow to put learning into practice — and you’ll start studying for licensing exams that are taken after graduation. What’s life like for you? 

Amber Steinhilpert: I’m preparing for a nursing clinical in spring 2021. There are many requirements that nursing students go through before they may be in clinical training. Then over the next six months, I’ll be studying for exams that determine next steps in my nursing program. After graduating with a bachelor of science degree in nursing, I’ll complete the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses). Preparing for this exam must be done years in advance — it’s critical. 

DF: How does playing hockey fit in?

AS: Hockey helps maintain my physical health. I’m starting my second year as a forward with the NCAA Division III women’s ice hockey for Alvernia. We formed the team last year and have significantly improved. I’m looking forward to being on the ice with my teammates and coaches.

DF: And as you look beyond Graduation Day and licensing?

AS: I’d love to return to Alaska to work with my Indigenous people, to educate others about physical and mental health, especially in places with limited access to medical care. My goal is work in the surgical unit at an Indian Health Service hospital. I want to advocate for patients, anticipate their needs, and communicate with patients and families. 

I’d be humbled to help our Native community receive the medical care they deserve, especially our Elders and young ones, who hold a special place in my heart.

DF: You’re the first in your family to pursue a medical career. How did your Doyon Foundation scholarship help you reach this milestone?

AS: I’m thankful for Doyon Foundation merit-based scholarships. My student account is paid in full so that I may focus on my studies. I’m fulfilling my dreams of becoming a student athlete at Alvernia while studying nursing. 

Having support from my Native community motivates me to be a positive role model, to help educate others to grow our culture and pursue their own dreams for medical careers. 

DF: Most students in challenging programs like yours say that managing time is vital.

AS: Majoring in nursing while also playing a collegiate sport is difficult and time consuming. I decided that education is a top priority, and that focus has allowed me to succeed in required courses.

Time management is the biggest challenge I’ve faced during my education. It’ll continue to be difficult because advanced courses are required to stay in the nursing program. Test-taking skills are another challenge. Questions on the NCLEX-RN can be tricky. You have to understand the material as well as how a question is structured. Practice is needed. 

DF: You’ve got a time-management plan: Keep a daily schedule, start school assignments early and set realistic goals. Other ideas to help students stay on track? 

AS: I believe that as long as you give your full effort and then some, the rest will fall into place. 

Students who are pursuing education at a higher level should be sure they love what they’re doing. Seek opportunities to help others. Participate in campus activities. Push yourself but know your limits.

Leading by example may inspire other students or athletes. Allow for mistakes with the expectation of correcting and improving. And remember to have fun, enjoy your education and help better this world. 

DF: Hockey is more than a game for young athletes like you who want to help others. 

AS: Yes. I’m involved in the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the Middle Atlantic Conference SAAC. We meet about twice a month to discuss ways to support healthy lifestyles for student athletes.

I volunteer at the local ice rink, helping children learn to play ice hockey. It’s a program through the Reading (Pennsylvania) Royals, the men’s professional hockey team. It’s heartwarming when younger girls skate up to ask how I got where I am and what advice I have to help them succeed. 

I’m also involved in the Justice, Equity and Inclusion Club at Alvernia. At a time when there are disagreements worldwide over politics, race, and gender identification, among many other issues involving diversity, I believe that education and discussion are important. 

Each month, Doyon Foundation profiles a different student or alumni If you are interested in being highlighted in a student profile, please click here to complete a short questionnaire. To complete the alumnus profile questionnaire, please click here.

Many students hear the word “scholarship” and think it’s just for students pursuing a traditional four-year degree at a university. But at Doyon Foundation, we have scholarships for everything from short-term vocational courses to doctorate programs. Whatever educational goals and career dreams you have, Doyon Foundation has the scholarship for you!

Let’s start with the definition of a “vocational student.” Vocational education is defined as “organized educational programs offering a sequence of courses which are directly related to the preparation of individuals in paid or unpaid employment in current or emerging occupations requiring other than a baccalaureate or advanced degree.” In other words, “vocational students” can be studying almost anything!

But don’t take our word for it. “Continue your education even if it is through a vocational, chartered or trade school. Your opportunities are endless,” says Cory Ennes, who received our short-term vocational scholarship last November. Cory, who was born and raised in Seward, is the son of Valarie Boulden and Orrie Ennes, and the grandson of Robert and Helen Olsen, and Orlie L. Ennes and Rita David.

Cory, who currently works as Chief Mate at Cruz Construction, used his scholarship to take the Master/Mate 500 and 1600 Ton Prep Course at the Alaska Vocational Technical Center (AVTEC) in Seward. “I’d like to complete my license upgrade and continue to advance my career in the marine industry,” Cory shares.

Here’s a list of programs/trainings our vocational students like Cory have been enrolled in the past several years:

  • Maritime training
  • AVTEC training courses
  • Real estate license
  • Non-degree seeking courses through the university
  • LSAT testing
  • Continuing medical training
  • Cosmetology  
  • CDL training
  • Inspired Leadership Training
  • Process technology
  • Diesel mechanic
  • Heavy equipment
  • Aviation technology
  • Construction management
  • Carpentry
  • Allied health
  • Welding
  • Dental
  • Certified Medical Assistant
  • Certified Nursing Assistant
  • Pharmacology tech
  • Paramedic
  • Culinary arts
  • Business management
  • Applied business
  • Esthetician

We know different students have different needs, so we are pleased to offer several different scholarships to help our vocational students get where they want to go:

  • Our short-term vocational scholarship is available to students in non-degree-seeking programs that are less than 120 hours and less than one year in duration. These scholarships cover the cost of the course or training – up to $3,000 – and are available year-round.
  • Vocational students enrolled in a degree-seeking program longer than 120 hours or one year, are eligible for:
    • Our basic scholarship, which ranges from $1,600 for part-time students to $2,400 for full-time students. These are awarded three times a year: for the spring, summer and fall semesters.
    • Our competitive scholarships, which range from $7,000 to $11,000, and are awarded once per year in the fall.

So are you eligible for a Doyon Foundation scholarship? Make sure you can answer “yes” to the following questions:

Now that’s settled, let’s talk about how to apply for a vocational scholarship. The application process for vocational students is the same as all other Foundation students. Applications are accepted online through the scholarship portal at doyonfoundation.com. If you’re applying for a basic or competitive scholarship, applications are due by the following dates:

  • March 15 – basic scholarships for the summer semester
  • May 15 – Basic scholarships for the fall semester, and competitive scholarships for the next academic year
  • November 15 – Basic scholarships for the spring semester

Applications for the short-term vocational scholarships are accepted year-round.

“Receiving the Doyon Foundation scholarships, I have been very honored and appreciative of the financial support given throughout my career,” Cory says of his scholarship. “By receiving the scholarship, I’m able to focus on the most important aspect of school: learning. Thank you for your investment in vocational students like myself and in our education; it means a lot.”

Cory reminds students that educational and career success isn’t just about taking classes and passing tests: “Having a mentor or a couple of mentors in the field of your choice is an excellent asset to help you excel and great to have for guidance and direction. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or questions you don’t know,” he says.

Want to dive into all the details? Review our scholarship resource handbook, our scholarship brochure, and our vocational scholarship brochure.  Still have questions or need help? Contact us: scholarships@doyon.com or 907.459.2048.

James and his daughter, Jamie, enjoy being out on the water together.

James Quinto is the son of Marcelo and Nancy Quinto of Juneau, and is the biological son of Delma James of Fort Yukon. James is a police officer who lives in Juneau.

James Quinto has a three-part strategy for success.

“Always have goals,” he said, “and pursue those goals and don’t stop until you complete them.”

It’s a life lesson that helped him earn a criminal justice degree with help from a Doyon Foundation scholarship. James graduated from Portland State University in 1997 and joined the Juneau Police Department, where he’s employed today.

“Doyon Foundation scholarships made things a lot easier, knowing I didn’t have to worry about loans when I was done with college,” he said. Retaining the scholarships also helped motivate him to continue earning good grades.

Now with retirement from the police department just a couple of years away, James is achieving a new goal, with help once again from a Doyon Foundation scholarship: He was scheduled to complete training in December 2020 to earn a 100 Ton Marine Captain License through the Marine Transportation Program at the University of Alaska Southeast.

Licensure qualifies him to captain a tour boat offering whale watching and sightseeing. It’s a plan that recalls James’ growing-up years on the waters around Juneau, fishing with his father and appreciating the natural world.

“After 25 years of police service, I would like to captain a charter boat in Southeast Alaska with my daughter, Jamie,” James said. “It’s fun to see the excitement in the eyes of people who’ve never been on the water or seen the wildlife that I’ve grown up around.”

The prospect of working alongside his daughter is a bonus. “She’s always enjoyed being on the water with me and doing a lot of the same things,” he said.

The 100 Ton Marine Captain License is a U.S. Coast Guard license to captain a commercial boat carrying more than six passengers. The license is issued for operation of inspected vessels on most U.S. waterways.

The amount of sea service and the size of vessels an applicant has experience on are among factors in obtaining the credential. Police work, with its emphasis on safety and adhering to policy, has been a valuable foundation for his new line of work, James said: “I’ve definitely learned to do things on time and to follow through.”

Each month, Doyon Foundation profiles a different student or alumni If you are interested in being highlighted in a student profile, please click here to complete a short questionnaire. To complete the alumnus profile questionnaire, please click here.

“Goals influence all of your decisions”

A software developer based in North Pole, Shane Derendoff is the son of Cece Derendoff-Nollner and Francis Nollner, both of Huslia. His maternal grandparents are Angeline Happy and Richard Derendoff, both of Cutoff-Huslia. Cutoff, a flood-prone site, was established in the 1920s and eventually relocated to the area known today as Huslia.

Shane has served as president of the Doyon Foundation board and is a past director of the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitor Center in Fairbanks. His hometown is the Koyukon Athabascan community of Huslia.

Shane Derendoff believes that setting goals for yourself — including goals that others may consider far-fetched — are a key to steady success.

“It never hurts to ask,” he said. “These goals influence all of your decisions from that point forward, most times subconsciously.” Pursuing higher education is among self-assigned goals he values, but he’s realistic about obstacles.

“My challenge has been to keep motivated, to keep pushing to completion,” he said. “Often it’s easier to just get a job and make a wage. But sticking to your educational goals will pay long-term dividends and raise your potential career ceiling.”

Shane earned a bachelor of science degree in 1998 from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he was a recipient of Doyon Foundation scholarships. Before enrolling in the master’s of business administration (MBA) program at Alaska Pacific University (APU), where his emphasis is information technology, he served as technical service manager at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital and owned Koyukon Consulting. He anticipates graduating from APU in 2022.

After completing his undergraduate degree, Shane went on to volunteer for several years on the Doyon Foundation board. “I gained key nonprofit experience,” he said. “Once I started my MBA, Doyon Foundation has funded me each step of the way.”

Shane plans to continue working as a software developer while attending APU and then start a consulting practice after graduation. His interests are management and nonprofit and leadership training. He enjoys seeking out other professionals whose early-career experiences mesh with his own. And he makes time for traditional activities such as hunting, wood-cutting and helping Elders.

“Doyon Foundation has been a key part of my educational and professional background,” he said.

Each month, Doyon Foundation profiles a different student or alumni. If you are interested in being highlighted in a student profile, please click here to complete a short questionnaire. To complete the alumni profile questionnaire, please click here.

“Doyon Foundation helped me have a more secure future”

Kiana Vondra is the daughter of Vanessa Vondra of Two Rivers and Jason Vondra of North Pole. Kiana is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where shes a member of the Class of 2023. Her hometown is North Pole. 

When Kiana Vondra envisions the future, she thinks about straight teeth — her goals include becoming an orthodontist — working hard in school, and reminding other young people to live in the present. 

“It sounds super-cliche, but even if you have a heavy workload, I still recommend going to school events,” she says. She believes that maintaining a satisfying life beyond schoolwork can help keep the two in balance. She also turns to YouTube for expert advice on using study time efficiently. 

Scholarships provided by Doyon Foundation are helping relieve pressures of completing her bachelor’s degree in chemistry while also looking ahead to applying to dental school. “The application process is very involved,” she says. “Doyon Foundation helped me have a more secure future financially by helping pay for my undergraduate degree.”

When she’s not attending to schoolwork, Kiana enjoys time with family and friends — “by far my favorite activity,” she says. “As long as I’m with them, it doesn’t matter what we’re doing. I know it’ll be fun.” She looks forward to fishing in Valdez and camping along the Chena or Tanana Rivers each summer, and staying indoors in winter to binge-watch favorite TV shows or play video games or board games with family. 

“Especially when you’re in school, it’s critical that you look after your mental health,” she says.  And while she advises letting instructors know first, it can be valuable to take a day off from class every once in a while if stress feels overwhelming. “It’s imperative that you look out for yourself,” she says. 

Her plans include eventually opening a private practice after dental school in the Pacific Northwest. And she hopes to move back to Alaska: “I consider it my home.”

Each month, Doyon Foundation profiles a different student or alumni. If you are interested in being highlighted in a student profile, please click here to complete a short questionnaire. To complete the alumnus profile questionnaire, please click here.

We need to educate our youth and allow them to grow”

A daughter of Unsoon and Allen Varner of Anchorage, Monica Lee earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration management in 2011 from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) and a master’s in business administration in 2020 from Alaska Pacific University (APU). She earned a graduate certificate in Alaska Native Leadership from APU in 2019.

Her paternal grandparents are Rachel and Doug Minton of Wainwright and her paternal great-grandparents are Stanley and Irene Kootoak of Point Hope and Barrow. Monica received Doyon Foundation scholarships each semester while attending UAA and APU. Her hometown is Anchorage.

Monica Lee began her professional career in human resources and management, most of that time within the medical field, including eight years with Anchorage-based Southcentral Foundation. She went on to provide consulting for tribal organizations with an interest in workforce development, an approach aimed at enhancing economic stability by considering overall needs of a region as well as barriers faced by prospective workers. 

Monica works today as a human resource business partner at Arctic IT, a Doyon, Limited-owned business specializing in information technology and software services. The role involves her in leadership team projects that include establishing a shareholder outreach program.

“Supporting Alaska Native youth within their professional development is how I see our community growing strong,” she said. “I’m very passionate about shareholder outreach and hire.” 

Her goals include helping more school-age shareholders learn about education and workforce training opportunities available through their Alaska Native corporations. 

“I didn’t grow up realizing what Doyon, Limited and Doyon Foundation had to offer,” Monica said. “Students have so many different opportunities and support within the community. I want to educate them about the benefits they have through Doyon and other Alaska Native corporations.” 

She encourages students to develop habits for success like seeking out mentors who can help young people navigate opportunities and offer help when challenges arise. As she considers her own professional development, she credits the Alaska Native Executive Leadership Program at Alaska Pacific University as a valuable step. 

“That was one of the most meaningful educational moments in my life,” Monica said. It combines insight into the history of Alaska Native leaders with an overview of how community is built among Alaska Native people. 

“We have been blessed to have strong leaders support us this far. Now we need to educate our youth and allow them to grow,” Monica said. Benefits offered through Arctic Slope Regional Corp., Southcentral Foundation and Doyon Foundation made it possible for her to complete the Alaska Native leadership program. “I’m so grateful,” she said.

Monica and her husband, Trent Lee, operate a small business that includes cafes in four professionally managed office buildings in Anchorage. In addition to studying, working full time at Arctic IT and helping run the small business, she enjoys seeing Alaska with her family. 

“Time management is a difficult challenge. I schedule blocks of time for work, school and family to make sure my work is completed by the weekend,” she said. “In the summer, we’ll be on the boat or at the river fishing. In the winter we’re out snowmachining and exploring the backwoods with our children.”

Long-term goals include earning a doctorate and continuing career development efforts so that young Alaska Native shareholders are prepared to lead. 

“I plan to share my knowledge and experience,” Monica said. “My main goal is to support my community.”

Each month, Doyon Foundation profiles a different student or alumni If you are interested in being highlighted in a student profile, please click here to complete a short questionnaire. To complete the alumnus profile questionnaire, please click here.

 

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Meet the Doyon Foundation Class of 2020 in our interactive 2020 Graduate Yearbook! We also invite you to join us in congratulating this year’s graduates by commenting on Facebook or Instagram and tagging #DFGradLove.

 

 

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