Summer Interns Say “Yes” to YEP

Seventy-five youth from Anchorage and surrounding communities participated in this summer’s YEP internship program.

Every year, more than 50 Alaska Native young people get their first taste of professional life through the Youth Employment Program (YEP), a paid internship opportunity that offers a variety of work experiences — everything from administration to tourism or construction.

This summer, 60 Anchorage youth and 15 additional young people from nearby communities participated in the 10-week program, which kicked off with its first-ever YEP conference. Youth interns from Eklutna, Chickaloon, and Tyonek joined Anchorage YEP interns for a week of activities, including drum-making, sessions with CITC’s Strengthening Our Youth and Life Skills programs and information about opportunities from The CIRI Foundation, Recovery Services, and the Health Professionals Opportunity Grant.

“They had a lot of fun and were very respectful of all the presenters,” said Youth Services Manager Krystal Kompkoff of the new interns. “It convinced us that this conference is something we should continue to do.

“YEP is a good program because it helps youth build self confidence and build their resumes,” Krystal continued. “It also helps them understand in a more supportive setting what is expected to be successful on the job. And because the program is aimed at 14- to 24-year-olds who primarily come from low income or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families backgrounds, it’s geared toward helping to end generational poverty.”

Each CITC-funded internship places youth with CITC partners, the newest of which this summer are BRM Construction, the State of Alaska, and the Alaska Native Heritage Center’s Nanvik café operated by BRM Consultants. Every internship is a great first work experience — and every internship is unique, as three young workers discovered this summer:

Russell Rivera, CITC IT

CITC IT intern Russell Rivera assembles a computer monitor arm.

Maybe it’s inevitable that Russell Rivera would find himself in the IT world. After all, his stepfather works in IT, as do several of his family members. “IT kind of grew on me over the years,” Russell said. “Having so many relatives in IT pushed me to learn about it more.”

And maybe it’s inevitable that Russell would wind up at CITC, since he has family working for the organization; other family members have found support through CITC programs and services.

So it’s no wonder Russell fit right in with CITC’s IT team. “Of all our interns, he ranks in the top,” praised Director of IT Jerry Kung. “Some interns that come in, you can tell right away that they get it. That’s Russell.”

Russell has spent his summer moving computers and printers and installing updates, doing a good deal of work at CITC’s new Ernie Turner Center. He also troubleshoots when CITC employees have a computer problem.

“It’s very complicated, some of the little things that go wrong,” he said. “It’s been helpful to learn how there are sometimes easy fixes that you don’t see at first — you have to widen your view to see the solution.”

The IT internship has been Russell’s first professional office experience; until now, he worked a variety of manual jobs. Russell says the YEP internship has prepared him for a future office job. In the meantime, the 21-year-old is crossing his fingers that a full-time job opens up with CITC — he’s gotten to like it here.

Kayla Ballot, Calista Education and Culture, Inc.

Kayla Ballot interned with Calista Education and Culture, Inc., this summer.

Kayla Ballot likes office work. That’s what she learned after two years of interning with YEP. Her first year, she spent every day working outside with a landscaping crew; her second year, she came indoors and worked with Gana-A’Yoo, Ltd.’s Human Resources department. A desk, a computer, a telephone — this is the atmosphere that suited her.

So she’s happy to have spent her third summer interning with Calista Education and Culture, Inc., where she processed more than 500 scholarship applications and helped coordinate the nonprofit’s annual golf tournament, where she spoke in front of a crowd of more than 200.

But Kayla got more from her internship this year than job experience.

“I learned more about my own culture,” said the 19-year-old Barrow native, whose mother is from Aniak. She also discovered a new opportunity: “I applied to UAA. I never thought I’d go to college, but everyone here encouraged me and convinced me that I wanted to further my education.”

“That’s one of the most heartwarming things that has come out of Kayla’s internship with our office is that she’s interested in going to college,” offered Rae Bavilla, Calista Education and Culture, Inc’s president and CEO. “That’s the perfect story, for us. Kayla gained some great experience this summer and we want to hear from her as she pursues higher education. We’re excited for her to apply for our scholarships, too.

“CITC does a lot of good work in the community and definitely impacts lives in a positive way,” Brenda added. “The YEP internship was a perfect match for us.”

Kayla will start UAA in the spring of 2019.

Brittany Dennis, St. Mary’s Native Corporation

After interning with St. Mary’s Native Corporation, Brittany Dennis has found full-time work, her own apartment, and a new connection to her culture.

Just as Brittany Dennis was celebrating her last day, she got word that she was about to have a first day.

“I was literally just writing a thank-you letter for my internship when they asked me if I wanted to stay through the fall,” explained Brittany, whose YEP internship was an administrative position with St. Mary’s Native Corporation, which has been partnering with CITC’s program for several years.

“Brittany did a wonderful job and we are happy to have her learn work experience with our Anchorage staff,” said Angelina Lott, an executive assistant at St. Mary’s.

Brittany earned a more long-term position at St. Mary’s, but joining the YEP program was kind of an accident. She and her husband, Francis, had come to CITC to look into services and to see about finding work. A case worker mentioned the YEP program, which was starting in just a few days, at the time.

Now, both Brittany and Francis — who interned with Leader Lawns this summer — have had their very first work experiences, thanks to YEP. Before their internships, life was very different. Brittany was living in Chugiak, apart from her husband; now the two of them can afford an apartment together. Through continued CITC support, Brittany is also obtaining her driver’s license.

“If we hadn’t found this program, I would probably be doing just entry-level stuff, fast food-type stuff,” Brittany guessed. Instead, she assisted with Angelina’s work, made travel reservations, and did some revision and filing work. Now that she’s got her foot in the door, she’s hoping to stay in administration while she considers going back to school.

What’s more, the internship with St. Mary’s has allowed Brittany to connect more deeply with her culture. With the encouragement of her coworkers, she has been learning to speak her native Tlingit language.

“Brittany is paving the way for her independence and striving to reach her full potential to grow as a future leader,” reported Youth Case Manager Michael Farahjood.

YEP offers internships during the spring, summer, and fall. Find out more about the program here, or call (907) 793-3300.