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 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.

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.

131_Student_Promotion_LillianBorroughs_FB-IN“Doyon Foundation scholarships allowed me to focus on becoming the best nurse I can

Lillian Mandregan-Burroughs is the daughter of Joanna and Robbin Hams of Nebraska. Her biological father is Macarius D. Mandregan, Sr. of St. Paul Island. Lillians maternal grandmother is Lillian Evans and her great-grandmother is Sally Woods Hudson of Rampart. Lillians maternal grandfather is the late Ronald Long of Colorado. Paternal grandparents are Ludmilla (Bourdukofsky) Mandregan and Tracy Mandregan of St. Paul Island. 

Lillian is a member of the Fairbanks cohort in the bachelors degree nursing program at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). Shes a member of the Class of 2021. Lillian is a certified nursing assistant who has worked the past 13 years at Denali Center, a short- and long-term care unit in Fairbanks. 

Doyon Foundation: You’ve said that enrolling in the UAA nursing required a leap of faith. How did that come about?

Lillian Mandregan-Burroughs: I originally started my college education in 2006. Life happened and I ended up enjoying my time as a nursing assistant, becoming a wife and mother, buying a home and becoming comfortable where I was. But it’s never too late to pursue your passion if you’re willing to work for it.

My parents and Elders at work continued to urge me to pursue nursing. I cut my hours at work, studied a lot and soon found myself in the UAA School of Nursing, Fairbanks cohort. The hard work and countless study hours helped me pursue my dream. I had not planned on a pandemic during nursing school!

DF: Surely that’s been among the biggest hurdles you’re facing on the way to Graduation Day.

LMB: Nursing school is very challenging — its high standards require much more studying than I’d ever done before. Add Covid-19 into the mix and I’ve become a teacher for my children and myself.

To continue achieving good grades and advance myself, I’ve studied harder than ever. I hope to complete summer and fall semesters without any hitches.

DF: How have Doyon Foundation scholarships helped?

LMB: Doyon Foundation helped lessen the financial burden of nursing school through basic scholarships. I was able to focus on becoming the best nurse I can, rather than worry how I’ll come up with tuition and money to pay bills. Doyon Foundation scholarships allowed me to avoid needing student loans, which would have deterred me from accepting a seat in the School of Nursing.

DF: Your work at Denali Center and in the community sound like valuable experience for nursing, where you’ll be called on to connect with all kinds of people.

LMB: Yes. I’ve been a member of Two Rivers K-8 Parent Teacher Association for three years, including the first two years spent as the PTA secretary. Being in PTA allowed me to be involved in planning events for my children’s school and the Two Rivers community.

I love learning from and working with Elders. And I enjoy spending time with family, gardening, sewing, and caring for critters on my hobby farm.

We are always looking for inspiring students to share their stories! If you would like to be featured in an upcoming student profile, please complete our student profile questionnaire. If you would like to nominate a student for a profile, please contact us at 907.459.2048 or foundation@doyon.com.

159_MT_Spencer_FB-IN

Doyon is supporting my endeavor toward a career in the electrical field”

We’d like to introduce you to one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Spencer Brown. Even though we are unable to hold the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic scholarship fundraiser this year, we still want to highlight our 2019 – 2020 Morris Thompson students and honor their hard work and achievements.

A Doyon Foundation student pursuing his certificate in industrial electricity, Spencer is scheduled to graduate from the Alaska Vocational Technical School (AVTEC) in June 2020. His parents are Nadene and Chad Brown; Nadene is from the McGrath area and Chad is from Anchorage. His maternal grandparents are Alice Verdene and Richard Anslement; both are from the McGrath area. His paternal grandparents are Gloria and Howdice Brown; Gloria is from Elim and Howdice is from Benson, Minnesota.

Spencer, a 2019 – 2020 Morris Thompson committee’s choice scholarship recipient, is a 2019 high school graduate from Enlightium Academy. He currently lives in Seward, where AVTEC is located.  

Spencer understands the power of setting goals. “My plans for the next several months are to stay focused on school, work hard and finish at the top of my class,” he says. Beyond that, he’s eager to enter the workforce and keep learning.

“Doyon Foundation graciously offered to help support my endeavor,” Spencer says. His scholarship helped cover costs of tuition as well as tools needed for AVTEC classes. “Doyon helped me overcome this challenge.”

A tour of AVTEC introduced him to the range of topics covered in the industrial electricity certificate. Day-to-day homework involves Spencer in practical applications of mathematical principles and theory.

“I love that I’m able to figure out such things as superposition, sine waves and Thevenin and Norton equivalents,” he says. “Everything I learn has a reason and a purpose. It’s an incredibly interesting and diverse field.”

Graduates in industrial electricity are in demand as construction and maintenance electricians, controls technicians, and marine engineers, among other careers. AVTEC’s program attracts detail-oriented students who enjoy solving complex technical projects – a passion Spencer discovered when he was 14 and helped his father with a building project.

Spencer continues to value teamwork. “I’d say the most fun part of industrial electricity is the cooperation among my peers to complete various labs and projects,” he says. Among the most challenging tasks was memorizing complex diagrams and functions in a mathematical logic class.

Students in Spencer’s field demonstrate proficiency in circuit analysis, including an ability to design, build, test and troubleshoot circuits and devices. Industrial electricity classes involve physics; industrial safety and health; renewable power; and an understanding of the National Electrical Code for construction and maintenance projects.

Founded in 1969, AVTEC is the only career and technical education center for post-secondary students statewide. “I would absolutely recommend AVTEC to anyone interested in the trades,” Spencer says.

While his time away from studies is limited as graduation day approaches, Spencer says that taking a break helps. “I’m putting all my efforts into studying,” he says, “but I do allow myself downtime.” He enjoys reading, hiking, fishing and composing music.

“Whenever the going gets tough, ask for help, whether it’s from family, peers or Him up above,” Spencer says. He encourages other students to get enough rest, eat healthy foods, and avoid drugs and alcohol.

“Respect your body,” he says. “The effort you put into your studies will determine how successful you are at them. You are accountable for your actions.”

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. And while the event itself is not happening this year, we still welcome your support! You may make a secure online donation on our website or mail a check to Doyon Foundation, 615 Bidwell Ave., Suite 101, Fairbanks, Alaska 99701. To direct your donation to the Morris Thompson scholarship fund, simply note “Morris Thompson scholarship fund” in the notes section of the online form or on the memo line of your check. Thank you for supporting our students!

159_MT_Rebekah_FB-IN‘I want to work on stories that are inclusive and meaningful’

We’d like to introduce you to one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Rebekah Hartman. Even though we are unable to hold the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic scholarship fundraiser this year, we still want to highlight our 2019 – 2020 Morris Thompson students and honor their hard work and achievements.

A University of Alaska student graduating in 2021, Rebekah 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. 

When Rebekah Hartman discovered the award-winning animated children’s program “Steven Universe,” a world opened up to her.

“Those are the types of shows I want to work on,” she said. 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 LGTTQ+ people — I thought they were strange. It was shows like ‘Steven Universe’ that made me realize I was wrong.”

Rebekah has earned Doyon Foundation scholarships throughout her college years as she pursues a bachelor’s degree in printmaking from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF).

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

An active volunteer focused on projects to benefit Alaska Native people, Rebekah 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, Rebekah 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.

She 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 said. “It helps clear my mind and to understand myself better.”

Rebekah plans to return to UAF in the fall to complete her bachelor’s degree and then 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,” Rebekah said, “is to create meaningful stories for people to watch.”

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. While the event itself is not happening this year, we still welcome your support! You may make a secure online donation on our website or mail a check to Doyon Foundation, 615 Bidwell Ave., Suite 101, Fairbanks, Alaska 99701. To direct your donation to the Morris Thompson scholarship fund, simply note “Morris Thompson scholarship fund” in the notes section of the online form or on the memo line of your check. Thank you for supporting our students!

159_MT_Noah_FB-INYou have to know who you’re not to know who you are”

We’d like to introduce you to another one of our amazing Morris Thompson competitive scholarship recipients: Noah Lovell. Even though we are unable to hold the Morris Thompson Memorial Golf Classic scholarship fundraiser this year, we still want to highlight our 2019 – 2020 Morris Thompson students and honor their hard work and achievements.

A University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) student graduating in May 2020, Noah Lovell is the son of Patrick and Sallie Lovell of Fairbanks, Alaska. Noah’s maternal grandparents are Lilian Evans of Rampart and Joseph Watson Burns of Fairbanks; his maternal great-grandparents are Thomas G. Evans of Rampart and Sally Woods Evans Hudson of Rampart. Paternal grandparents are Yoshiko Yamamoto of Kyoto, Japan, and John Lovell of Chelan, Washington. 

Noah earned Morris Thompson competitive scholarships throughout his college years; he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in marketing. Noah’s hometown is Fairbanks, Alaska.

Doyon Foundation: Congratulations on becoming a member of the UAF Class of 2020. Spring semester in Alaska and around the world was upended because of the coronavirus pandemic. How did life change for you?

Noah Lovell: The pandemic and everything going on with it has been the biggest challenge I’ve faced during my education. For a social person like me, distancing because of the virus was difficult. I don’t know where I’d be without my family, friends and faith. I went from having most of my classes held in person to all of them being online.

But it’s also been an amazing reset: UAF is using technology so that students can continue to see their professors and classmates weekly. This challenging time shook the university and all of Alaska, but it has also revealed our resilience.

DF: Like a lot of us, you’ve used this upheaval to take stock of life.

NL: I’ve found a lot of wisdom in these words: “You have to know who you are not to know who you are.” What this means to me is to know what you like but focus more on what you love. I like to paint, and I love to write and play the violin. I’m also very happy and joyful and love to encourage others. I have figured out that I am not a mean person, but extremely easy-going with a lot of dedication to the things I love. I have found my identity and that makes everything else worthwhile.

Don’t let anyone box you in and don’t put anyone else in a box. Take a step back and evaluate the current situation of your life. Ask yourself what could be changed for the better and write it down. Give yourself time to be a student as well as to have fun with family and friends. It’s a balance, for sure.

DF: Does an example come to mind? Maybe a time when you’ve achieved that balance between school and time with friends?

NL: I’m a full-time student but I still manage to get involved in my community. One of the rewards is that you never know who you’ll meet.

For instance, it was a friend’s birthday back in the fall and he wanted to celebrate by having a group of us spend time at a local soup kitchen. I thought we were going to get dirty and work in the kitchen, but they had enough volunteers and so we were invited to sit and talk with people who were eating that day.

I met this awesome guy who truly knew the art of storytelling. A while later, when my mother, grandma and I visited the Fairbanks Correctional Center as part of a prison ministry, there was the man I met at the soup kitchen, visiting an inmate just like in the story he told me. We joked with each other and then he went his way and I went mine. You truly never know who you’re going to impact, and that kind of surprise keeps life interesting.

DF: Is taking time to evaluate life helping shape your plans after graduation?

NL:  My current long-term goal is to earn a master’s degree from the College of Theology and Ministry at Oral Roberts University and work in ministry. I would love to continue on to get a Doctorate in Theology, but it’s always one step at a time. This past year I’ve grown in my faith and because of this I’ve decided I’d like to further my education in something I’m truly passionate about.

DF: What’s it like spending summers among Alaska visitors? You’re an Alaska Native tour guide on the Riverboat Discovery, based in Fairbanks. The tour typically includes a visit to the Chena Indian village.

NL: The Riverboat Discovery is a wonderful opportunity that provided a strong foundation for me.

It’s an amazing job that allowed me to share the Alaska Native culture, specifically the Athabascan culture, with guests of Alaska. As a guide, I performed demonstrations in front of 300 to 800 people and learned valuable skills to carry into my future. The Riverboat has strong leadership and invested in developing its employees. As a guide I was provided customer service, leadership and mentoring training. I’m very thankful for the work experience and I believe it has helped me to develop skills to take into my future.

DF: How has earning a Morris Thompson competitive scholarship benefited you? Has it helped in ways that you didn’t anticipate?

NL: The Doyon Foundation has truly lifted me as a student. Receiving the Morris Thompson competitive scholarship was an honor and true blessing.

Being awarded scholarships from Doyon Foundation provided me with the resources to succeed in my degree and the confidence to excel in school. I was able to pay tuition, buy textbooks and other course-related expenses, and focus on my course load.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank God, my family and my friends who have continued to encourage and support me through my undergraduate education. A big thank you to Doyon Foundation and everyone who has helped me these past four years; here’s to the class of 2020!

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. While the event itself is not happening this year, we still welcome your support! You may make a secure online donation on our website or mail a check to Doyon Foundation, 615 Bidwell Ave., Suite 101, Fairbanks, Alaska 99701. To direct your donation to the Morris Thompson scholarship fund, simply note “Morris Thompson scholarship fund” in the notes section of the online form or on the memo line of your check. Thank you for supporting our students!