Benjamin Nelson
Pursuing/Earned Degree: Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry
University/College: University of North Dakota

“Where are you from?”

For many people, this question bears little significance, or at least no complication. For me, this question poses an important quandary. I grew up a military brat. I was born in Hawaii, lived in Japan, and moved to Germany for most of my formative years, all while visiting stateside family in Minnesota and Washington every summer. The plurality of my childhood made establishing my personal identity difficult. Initially, I was jealous of my cousins in Minnesota and Washington. Each of them would spend their entire childhood in one place, within driving distance of our grandparents and within the same circle of friends. At the same time, I endured countless goodbyes, leaving close friends behind every two to three years and learning to swallow my emotions every time we left our aging grandparents for the upcoming school year. Growing up, I did not recognize the opportunities my childhood afforded me. I remember my father forcing my brother and me to play for the local, German ice hockey team despite our complaints and my mother pushing our family to continue exploring yet another European city despite our lagging enthusiasm.

As I got older I began to embrace the unique experiences of my childhood and the qualities they imparted in me. I grew adventurous in my overseas environment, but, most importantly, the role models of my military community imparted in me a burning passion for service. In college, I followed my burgeoning curiosity and desire for service, enrolling in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). I similarly explored the unknown as a volunteer EMT, hoping to gain proficiency in basic medical skills while providing support for my local, underserved rural community. These two experiences, initially exploratory ventures, became the foundation for my later undergraduate pursuits and developing professional goals.

I discovered myself in the proud, independent people of rural North Dakota and in my brothers and sisters in arms. I pursued my interest of the sciences in my university classes, but I nurtured my burgeoning passion for medicine and public health as I worked within the community. One particularly relevant ambulance call remains deeply engrained in my memory. During my first year in Grafton we transferred a farmer who was a World War II veteran. During the ride to the hospital the topic of my ROTC membership arose, and prior to dropping him off at the emergency department he thanked me not only for my medical aid, but also for my military commitment. This man had experienced ordeals I could not even imagine, and yet he still thanked me. He epitomizes two characters closest to my heart—the soldier, sacrificing without expectations of gratitude, and the rural worker, living with limited access to amenities many of us take for granted.

Thinking about the image of this man in the middle of a health crisis and future patients like him I will encounter motivates me to improve my ability to make a significant, positive impact upon their lives. I seized the opportunity to embark on a cultural and occupational exchange program (CULP) with the German military to gain experience working within the kind of multinational, allied workforce I will inevitably encounter as a future military physician. I conducted research at a federal institution and at the University of North Dakota so I could develop my ability to think critically and innovatively as a physician. I confronted my fear of heights to become military parachutist-qualified so that I will be prepared to quickly deploy with any of my future soldiers should the need arise. My current and past experiences with the military offer me valuable lessons in service. As a child, I grew up in awe of the tenacity and generosity of our community’s soldiers, and as I embarked upon my own path towards military service I grew cognizant of the unique combination of domestic and international service opportunities a military career could support.

I take after my mother’s side of my family (coincidentally the side from where I claim my Alutiiq ancestry) in that I enjoy staying busy. Every day is demanding, but I am deeply engaged in a field that I love. The successes I’ve experienced throughout my childhood and in college can all be attributed to the mentorship I’ve received from my family and individuals within my communities. And although I experienced geographic separation from the Alutiiq community during my childhood in Germany and throughout my university education in North Dakota, the support I’ve received from its members continues to inspire me to pursue opportunities to not only improve myself, but to improve others now as a mentor and tutor, and hopefully in the future as a community-conscious physician.

Brittany Horne
Pursuing/Earned Degree: Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Business Administration with a concentration in Law and Public Policy
University/College: Gonzaga University

I was born and raised on Kodiak Island and am currently a student at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. I am entering my junior year, studying accounting and business administration with a concentration in law and public policy. I have been very fortunate to receive two scholarships from the Koniag Education Foundation for the upcoming year.

The first is the general scholarship and the second is the Angayuk Scholarship and Internship. The Angayuk scholarship requires that I work as an intern for 6-10 weeks in the Koniag office doing work that relates to my major. This summer I was in the Anchorage office working with the accounting team to learn the nuts and bolts of accounting. When I am not studying or working, I enjoy hiking, fishing, and running.

I love the close community at Gonzaga; it makes me feel as though I belong and am part of a large family. Of course, the basketball games are always a great time! I recently just finished my summer study abroad program in Florence, Italy. During my two months in Europe, I spent time in Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, and Spain. All four countries had something new to offer and gave me insight into the local cultures. After receiving my college degree, I hope to give back to the native community since they have provided so many opportunities for me as I learn and grow. And last but not least GO ZAGS!

James Garner
Pursuing/Earned Degree: ASE Certified Master Mechanic
University/College: Universal Technical Institute

James is a vocational student attending the Auto Diesel Technology II Program at the Universal Technical Institute. Receiving an ASE Certified Master Mechanic will allow him advance in an ever growing industry that will open many doors in the auto industry. James wants to use his knowledge to help his family, friends, and community with their auto and mechanical needs.

Joshua Hanson
Pursuing/Earned Degree: Bachelor’s degree and double major in Economics and Statistics
University/College: University of Toronto

Joshua is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree and double major in Economics and Statistics at the University of Toronto. Joshua is interested in learning how countries can foster long-term economic growth and then applying what he’s learned to Alaska’s oil and gas driven economy.

Ann Hart
Pursuing/Earned Degree: Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree
University/College: Eastern Washington University

Ann grew up in Kodiak and hopes to return once she completes her Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree at Eastern Washington University. She is looking forward to broadening her academic career through her degree in areas such as language, health, and nutrition.

Benjamin Kraft
Pursuing/Earned Degree: BA in genetics and molecular biology
University/College: Northwestern University

Benjamin graduated in June with a BA in genetics and molecular biology from Northwestern University. During his undergrad Benjamin was a Resident Assistant (RA) in the dorms and president of his student group, the Ballroom, Latin, and Swing Team (BLAST). He is now pursuing a Masters of Science in Management Studies at the Kellogg School of Management. Upon completing his masters, he intends to go into the workforce of Human Relations to bridge the gap between employees and management.

Alyssa Madrid
Pursuing/Earned Degree: Bachelor of Arts degree in Alaskan Native Languages and Studies
University/College: University of Alaska Southeast

Alyssa Madrid is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Alaskan Native Languages and Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast. Alyssa is an advocate for cultural and language revitalization a member of the Kodiak Alutiiq Dancers for over 6 years. Alyssa works as the Cultural Programs Assistant for the Sun’aq Tribe on Kodiak. She organizes travel, performances, and fundraises events. Once she completes her degree she would like to return to Kodiak and be an advocate for Native youth.

Kelly McCracken
Pursuing/Earned Degree: Bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training with a Pre-Physical Therapy Specialization and a minor in Psychology
University/College: Washington State University

Kelly is a junior at Washington State University and is working to earn her undergraduate degree in athletic training with a pre-physical therapy specialization and a minor in psychology. After completing her undergraduate degree Kelly plans on attending physical therapy school to earn her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, and has a goal to specialize in sports physical therapy.

Tatiana Schneider
Pursuing/Earned Degree: Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management
University/College: University of Alaska Anchorage

Tatiana is a pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is a member of UAA’s Construction Management club and the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC). Tatiana hopes to travel throughout Alaska working on various construction projects, like the Kodiak High School addition and renovation project she was involved in.

Josh Schwartzenburg
Pursuing/Earned Degree: Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences
University/College: Louisiana State University

Josh is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences at Louisiana State University. Once Josh graduates with honors, he plans to further his education by attending medical school. He is the treasurer of LSU’s Native American Student Organization (NASO) and an active member of Alpha Epsilon Delta (AED) Premedical Honors Society.

Diana Velez
Pursuing/Earned Degree: Masters of Business Administration degree
University/College: Alaska Pacific University

Diana holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Management is pursuing an Accelerated Masters of Business Administration degree at the Alaska Pacific University. Currently, she works at Southcentral Foundation Detox as a Program Coordinator full time and attending Alaska Pacific University (APU) part time. Diana is passionate about giving back to her community and seeks out various ways to donate her time.