Helping Hands

At CITC, help never comes from just one source. It comes from a network of hands holding up each participant, empowering them to meet their potential.

With the support of CITC, Chyenne Thompson earned her GED in record time and became the first person in her family to enroll at university. Here, APU Academic Advisor Caitlin Poindexter guides Chyenne through the enrollment process.

Chyenne Thompson has a shy smile and a soft-spoken manner. She also has a tenacious drive that helped her earn a GED in record time and become the first person in her family to enroll at a university.

How did she tap into that drive? With the help of some CITC employees who banded together to empower her to realize her own endless potential.

A Network of Support

When Chyenne’s family first came to CITC, they were living in a shelter and looking to get on General Assistance. Through enrolling the family in that program, CITC Job Coach Marlene Adams learned that although Chyenne had attended Bartlett High School and earned good grades, she hadn’t gotten her diploma. Chyenne was looking for work, but needed something flexible enough to allow her to earn her GED at the same time.

So Marlene referred Chyenne to CITC’s Youth Employment Program (YEP). Aimed at Alaska Native and American Indian youth aged 14 – 24, YEP equips young people with job skills through placements at CITC and with partner organizations.

“It was me, Marlene, and Case Manager Carl Kava, who found them housing through Cook Inlet Housing Authority,” recalled Youth Coordinator Camai Cassey. “You could tell, once the family’s housing was set, and Chyenne had a job, all her stress came down, and we were able to start working on some of those life skills. Around that time is when Michael came in.”

Michael is CITC Youth Case Manager Michael Farahjood, who worked with Chyenne to set goals around her education aspirations and her desire to improve her social skills.

“Her social skills were a challenge originally,” Michael remembered. “She used to be very shy and walk with her head down.”

In addition to getting Chyenne enrolled in workshops that helped her apply for student financial aid and in tours of local college campuses, Michael connected her with the Tribal Personal Responsibility Education Program (Tribal PREP), which prepares young people to successfully navigate adulthood. The program incorporates lots of activities that get youth on their feet and interacting. “Tribal PREP was a big help with Chyenne’s social skills,” Michael said. “She really got involved and showed more interest in interacting with peers her own age.”

“So many people poured into this young lady, you could see the change immediately.”
– Camai Cassey, CITC Youth Coordinator

Chyenne also found encouragement from CITC’s Human Resources (HR) Department. As she transitioned from YEP to CITC’s Career Ready program, Chyenne met with Senior HR Generalist GayDell Trumblee, who noticed the young woman’s reserve.

“GayDell shared that she was very shy when she was growing up too, so she gave Chyenne great tips on overcoming shyness,” Camai said. “She told her, our culture is to greet each other. Lift your head up, say hello. That little advice gave her an idea of how to interact in a healthy, positive way. Now she makes her presence known.”

Chyenne’s progress is an illustration of how CITC’s Nat’uh Service Center works. Nat’uh offers programs and services to address the multiple needs a single individual might have, all in one convenient location. Here, people looking for assistance can find help with housing, employment, childcare, education, recovery from substance abuse, family rebuilding, and much more. CITC’s dedicated team of employees, whose mission it is to empower participants to find success, create the network of support that lifts a person up as she works toward her goals.

Taking the Driver’s Seat

“So many people poured into this young lady, you could see the change immediately,” Camai went on.

For Chyenne, change came in big ways and small: After YEP, Chyenne transitioned into Career Ready CITC’s career preparation program for adults, which meant she had a guaranteed six months of employment. When her supervisor in the Accounting Department, Kay Griffith, noticed Chyenne wasn’t fully engaged, staff worked together to find a more suitable position. Now, Chyenne works in CITC’s Career Development Center — where she’s thriving.

“We’re always busy there, and I enjoy helping people,” Chyenne said.

In addition to working at CITC through the Career Ready program and going to Alaska Pacific University, Chyenne volunteers her time with a number of CITC events, including the annual Christmas Basket and Holiday Family Gathering.

Meanwhile, she finished her GED in less than 30 days — a CITC record. She also completed Adult Basic Education and took CITC Life Skills classes, on top of volunteering her time to events like CITC’s Christmas Basket and the Alaska Pacific University (APU) fundraiser for Bean’s Café.

CITC’s college campus tours gave Chyenne a taste of what university life could be like and motivated her to pursuing higher education. Early this January, Michael accompanied an excited Chyenne on her first visit with an APU advisor to enroll in college.

“Just to see her reaction to what types of classes she’s going to take, that’s definitely a moment I’ll remember,” Michael said. “For her to come to us in September and now be enrolling in college — that’s a proud moment for her and us. She felt confident and ready.”

“Enrolling at APU was fun,” Chyenne shared. “Michael asked a few questions I didn’t think of. Now I’ve started school, and it’s going really well. I like learning new things. I’ve always wanted to go to college.”

Now, Chyenne is a go-getter: When she wanted to apply for a scholarship through her Native corporation, she brought it to Michael and Camai for advice. She started a budget on her own, and she’s working toward purchasing her own vehicle.

“She’s very honest about where she’s at and where she wants to go, and that’s what allows us to be so helpful to her,” Camai described. “She’s the one who gets in the driver’s seat and takes the wheel. We’re just there to help guide her now.”

What’s more, Chyenne is an inspiration to others. Her performance helped propel her family, with her brother, Steven, who just completed his GED and became the Employment Services and Training Department’s first GED graduate of 2018.

So, what’s next for Chyenne? She paused to think about it.

“Right now, I hope I can find a major I’m really interested in pursuing,” she said after a moment. “After that — I don’t know. Maybe I’ll work at CITC!”

You can find the support you need at the Nat’uh Service Center through CITC programs and services. Visit us, or give us a call at (907) 793-3600 to get started.