After facing prejudice at school, Chy Maitland proved everyone wrong when she graduated high school at 14 — then pursued a career helping others
Chy Maitland vividly remembers the day her teacher told her she was stupid. She was five, but her teacher derided her for not being able to read or write.
“I was like, ‘I’m only five!’” Chy recalled.
But the judgment didn’t stop with one teacher. Through the third grade, Chy — whose parents are Aleut and Blackfeet Plains Indian — got ridiculed and called names because of her heritage. Teachers assumed she was slow, just because she was Native.
Then, at age 13, Chy overheard an advisor who had administered her annual testing predict, “That girl won’t graduate high school, let alone college.”
Chy had had enough.
By age 14, she graduated high school. And at age 18, Chy has earned her first degree, has a job at CITC, and is determined to fight against discrimination of all kinds through a career in the criminal justice system.
So much for “stupid.”
Learning at Home
“I really give my mom kudos for being willing to educate us,” shared Chy, who is an Aleut Corporation descendant. By the time she’d finished third grade at the local public school, her family decided, because of the discrimination Chy and her nine siblings had faced, to homeschool all the kids.
“My mom homeschooled kids in five different grades at the same time. I didn’t realize then how crazy that was. She went beyond the usual curriculum to teach us about our culture and our history, too.”
Free from the discrimination she had experienced at public school, Chy flourished at home. By age 14, she had done enough work to graduate from high school, with honors.
She had also found her passion in life.
“I’m very keen on seeking justice for indigenous women and children,” she said. “I know what it’s like to be discriminated against because of ethnicity, age, gender. Even at fourteen, I wanted to prove that when someone discriminates against you because you’re indigenous, or because you’re a kid — that’s wrong.”
Part of the CITC Family
This month, Chy could be found smiling in her graduation cap and gown, in a photo featured on the Alaska’s People Facebook page.
“Since most 2020 graduates won’t be having a traditional graduation ceremony, we wanted to find a way to celebrate them,” said BreeAnn Davis, Manager of CITC’s Alaska’s People department, which connects job seekers — including new graduates — to employers.
All month, Alaska’s People has been posting shout-outs to this year’s graduates. Chy graduated this year, at age 18, from UAA with an associate’s degree in criminal justice, and she’s on track to earn a bachelor degree, a certification in corrections, and a second associate’s later this year. But she is more than a face on Facebook; she is also a CITC employee.
Last October, while looking for a job, she remembered seeing her dad’s old CITC badge from when he worked with the organization. Chy quickly landed a position as an administrative assistant — then just as quickly demonstrated her outstanding work ethic.
By February, Chy was promoted to working with CITC’s executive team. Her success hasn’t been effortless, though. Chy, who spent a year and a half as a child not speaking, struggled with anxiety and depression in the past. And she has a fear of talking on the phone — not exactly ideal for someone who answers the phone all day.
“I really worked on furthering my communications skills by talking to visitors and answering the phone,” Chy revealed. “It’s easy to get disheartened by bad phone calls, but you always remember those good ones, and it’s uplifting to know you’ve helped someone. That’s what has helped me develop the communication tools I lacked before.”
Those skills will help her as she goes on to pursue a career in criminal justice, once she’s gained a little more work experience. Chy hopes to eventually get her foot in the door at CITC’s subsidiary, the Alaska Native Justice Center, where she aims to advocate for Native rights, especially for women and children.