Tayler Higgins has big goals. She sees herself as a future leader. She wants to be her own boss, travel the world. She will be the first in her family to go to college.
But first, she’s finding the right pathway for herself.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t have a plan of what I wanted to do,” she said.
Tayler’s own experience with CITC — and her first step into a professional environment — started with the Youth Employment Program Internship. To help develop her leadership skills, she also joined the CITC Youth Advisory Council, which works with the CITC Board of Directors to bring a youth perspective to CITC’s work.
It was with the Administrative Apprenticeship Program, though, and her work with the HPOG Healthcare Training program that brought her a sense of community and possibility.
“I didn’t know what to expect from the program,” Tayler said. “But I learned a lot. It was really cool to be a part of the team on the second floor [of the Nat’uh Service Center] and help people do better.”
Over the course of the apprenticeship, Tayler went from being someone who was scared to use the office printer and shy around coworkers to being a competent and professional worker who is comfortable having conversations with anyone, from her mentor Timothy Johnson to the president and CEO of CITC, Gloria O’Neill.
“All the areas I wanted to fix, this program helped fix,” she said. “Working here has shown me what I can do, and how I can bring what I’m good at to the table and grow and create connections.”
HPOG Program Manager Timothy Johnson, who served as Tayler’s mentor, said that from day one, Tayler made efforts to create a real connection with her work and her team.
“She asked to be introduced to the director of our department,” he recalled. “So I introduced her. The boldness to want to talk directly to an executive — to want our director to know who she was — you don’t see that often. But that’s Tayler — she is genuine in her person, and she’s genuine about her people and her work.”
The Administrative Apprenticeship Program also helped Tayler connect to her culture.
Though her grandmother, Flora Thiele, had been a leader in the Native community, working with CIRI and for the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Tayler felt dissociated from her Yup’ik and Athabascan heritages.
“But at CITC, I see different people from different Tribes, and I learn from everybody,” she said. “Elders ask me where I’m from. I feel welcomed by them. The Administrative Apprenticeship Program brought me that connection and helped me feel proud of who I am.”
Tayler has applied for a CIRI internship following her completion of the apprenticeship program. In the meantime, she’s already putting her new administrative skills to work at CITC’s Alaska’s People department.
“I want to stay under the CITC umbrella,” she decided. “I love how CITC connects with people and changes the things that need to be fixed. It makes me feel good that we work together to make Native people change stereotypes. We make a better place for Native people.”
Learn more about the Duch’deldih Administrative Apprenticeship Program.