09 Mar Speed Bumps, Not Road Blocks
Isabella Badwarrior fought her way to a better life–and she took her loved ones with her
When asked which CITC value she relates to the most, Isabella Badwarrior doesn’t hesitate.
It’s not the first answer you’d expect from someone who’s been looking after her two younger sisters on her own since the age of 11 and is currently the primary provider for her family. But CITC—and the road she took to get here—has taught Isabella how to seek out support when she needs it.
Isabella’s family moved to Anchorage from Wasilla while she was in middle school, but struggled to find stable ground early on.
“As soon as I got out here, we were staying with my aunt,” Isabella recalls. Shortly after, her family moved to the Clare House in West Anchorage, which provides emergency shelter for transitioning families. “I’d ride from Spenard all the way to Clark [Middle School] every day.”
It was around this time that, due to family circumstances, Isabella took on a major responsibility.
“I had to raise my sisters when I was 11 years old,” she said.
Isabella has been caring for them ever since.
Her family eventually found a more permanent living situation in Mountain View, where she took comfort in her surroundings. The move didn’t make high school any easier, though.
Not Your Typical School Career
“I slacked off freshman year. Sophomore year, I was doing home school because I didn’t want to be at school. That didn’t work,” she said. “I got into Benny Benson and was prepared to graduate early—and then COVID hit.”
COVID had a big impact on Isabella’s motivation. She was juggling life and work with school, and fell behind. After she returned to in-person class, school was no longer the landscape she was used to.
“Pre-COVID, it was a school kids were at because they couldn’t learn the way public schools taught them. When I went back, kids were there without any intention of learning.”
Isabella’s focus shifted to being present for her siblings and maintaining her job at Texas Roadhouse. It wasn’t long until Benny Benson was forced to drop her due to a lack of attendance. But losing her spot in school only re-ignited her passion for seeing it through—she enrolled at Frontier Charter School that same day.
Perseverance Pays Off
While steadily chipping away at school, Isabella took an internship with the Alaska Native Heritage Center through CITC’s Youth Employment Program, which offers mentoring, education support, and job training. Mollie Donahue-Meyer was assigned to be her case manager.
“Mollie took me on as a newbie and we built a bond,” said Isabella. “When I was trying to graduate, she tutored me at lunch. She is just so pure and genuine.”
The admiration goes both ways.
“Isabella is really driven. When she came upon stumbling blocks, she would reach out to me, which not everyone does,” said Mollie. “In some ways, she made my job easier.”
The relationship they formed was a catalyst to Isabella finishing school and pursuing further opportunities at CITC. Isabella joined the Education Services team as an Adult Basic Education (ABE)/GED Assistant Intern in 2022 and has worked her way up to becoming the department’s administrative assistant.
“It’s definitely a healthy working environment,” said Isabella. “There’s no drama. They took me on graciously—they’re teaching me what I don’t know. We’re like a family.”
Isabella takes pride in serving people who are “just like how I was.”
“People who are living along the poverty line,” she specified. “They’re just trying to make it—and that’s really hard. And it’d be ten times harder without CITC.”
That act of paying it forward won’t be limited to Alaska, though. Isabella is of Lakota descent and wants to pass along what she learns to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota someday.
“I intend to take the knowledge I have from [CITC], and when I get older, take it back to my Tribe,” she asserted.
“I’ll need to be here for a while.”
Need support with your education goals? Looking for on-the-job training that can pave the path to your career? Connect with our Employment and Training Services department.