Former Rural Youth Services intern becomes Health and Social Services Director for Chickaloon — and fulfills his mother’s legacy
On July 1 this year, Philip Ling came full circle. That was the day he officially became the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council’s Health and Social Services director — 15 years after his mother held the same position, and 11 years after Philip got his first taste of working in the department as a Rural Youth Services (RYS) intern.
“I never had an interest in health and social services before my exposure to it,” Philip said about his new career.
Though his mother worked in the health and social services department, Philip’s first real experience in the field came courtesy of CITC’s RYS program. A companion to Anchorage Youth Services, RYS provides case management and connection to employment for young people ages 14 – 24 living in the villages of the Cook Inlet region, including Chickaloon.
A tribal citizen and an Alaska Native of Ahtna Dene descent, Philip “jumped at” the chance to enroll with RYS at age 14 to work for Chickaloon Village Traditional Council (CVTC). “It was a unique opportunity to work with my Tribe and to get know my family,” he said.
RYS aims to equip young people with job skills and experience that will help prepare them for a future career. “There aren’t many opportunities for employment in rural communities,” said Krystal Kompkoff, CITC Youth Services manager. “Youth who are employed at young ages are less likely to need public assistance as they become adults because they learn basic employability skills.”
The grant that funds RYS not only creates jobs for youth; it includes payment to a supervisor to coach young people on how to be successful in the workplace.
“It really varied,” Philip said of his RYS experience. “The Tribe had me switch departments every week, so I got to learn quite a bit. As a young person, so many people don’t know what they want to do for work because they haven’t done it. So, a week in each department — that gave me some knowledge and understanding and a better idea of what I liked.”
In addition to providing on-the-job experience, Philip said, RYS also equipped him with permits and practical tools any young person might need when entering the job market. Philip, who worked a total of two years through RYS, earned his food handlers card and CPR certification; RYS staff even helped his fellow interns get their permits and driver’s licenses.
“They remove any barriers in the way of young Natives being able to attain employment,” Philip said.
The week he spent as the assistant to Lisa Wade, director of CVTC’s Health, Education, and Social Services Division, opened unexpected doors. Philip went from being someone who fetched coffee, made copies, and organized files to someone with a strong connection to a potential career.
“[It’s] another opportunity for a young Alaska Native that, without RYS, wouldn’t be possible.”
Shortly after graduating high school, Philip saw an ad for an open position in CVTC’s Health and Social Services department.
“I don’t think I would have reached out and tried to work for the Tribe if I didn’t already have that connection and a relationship with Lisa,” he shared. “I was comfortable with her, and she expressed interest in me.”
“Philip was eager to learn from the start. He had an amazing attitude that made me want to be a better leader and mentor for him,” said Lisa, who is serving as CVTC’s acting executive director.
While that first opening Philip saw closed before he could apply, he successfully landed a job at CVTC as a language apprentice. For five and a half years, he worked with CVTC’s language program; meanwhile, he also took on the role of Chickaloon Village Traditional Council member, serving on both the Valley Native Primary Care Joint Operating Board and the Life House Community Health Center Board. Most recently, Philip served in the role of Council secretary.
His new position as director of Health and Social Services, Philip said, “is a big task, but I feel called to it. My mom was director of this department, so now it’s a legacy position to me. Since my mom has passed, it’s a big honor to take on this position and make her proud.”
“I know Philip’s mom would be so proud of him coming full circle and taking over for her,” Lisa added. “I can’t wait to see all the amazing things he will accomplish as our new Health and Social Services director.”
Working at CVTC is quickly becoming a family affair for the Lings. This year, Philip’s younger brother Dylan, 21, is working as an RYS intern, most recently in CVTC’s justice department.
“That department could have permanent positions opening up in the future,” Philip reported. “My brother has never been interested in justice before, but now he realizes maybe that’s the place for him. That’s another opportunity for a young Alaska Native that, without RYS, wouldn’t be possible.”
For more information on how Rural Youth Services helps young people find their place, visit citci.org/employment-training/youth-service. Or explore CITC’s other youth empowerment and youth employment programs.