PUBLISHED: 11:25 AM on Thursday, April 24, 2008
Gail Dabaluz: Scholarship recipient
Everyone who spends time on the water in search of a big King this spring during the Salmon Derby is helping students receive an education.

Each year since 1997 the Spring King Salmon Derby has given part of its proceeds to scholarship funds for Native students.

Gail Dabaluz is one of those students. Her most recent scholarship for 2005-2008 and was distributed from the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

photo courtesy of Gail Dabaluz
  Scholarship recipient Gail Dabaluz, center, is flanked by her daughter, Ke'ala Napiha'a, and her son, Pietr, and husband, Leroy Dabaluz.
"They also supported me when I first pursued my bachelors degree, that was in 1994 and they stayed with me until I received my degree in 1998," she said.

Dabaluz took a break before heading to graduate school and worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the contracting section.

"I was administering the self-determination contracts for the federally recognized tribes here in Alaska. Then I transferred to the Fairbanks field office. And while I was there I found out about the Alaska Native and Rural Development Program. They have the program available for undergraduate degrees as well as graduate students. I enrolled in 2005."

Scholarships awarded

1997 - 63 students @ $300/ea = $18,600

1998 - 57 students @ $300/ea = $16,800

1999 - 51 students @ $200/ea = $10,200

2000 - 98 students @ $200/ea = $19,600

2001 - 80 students @ $200/ea = $16,000

2002 - 91 students @ $250/ea = $22,750

2003 - 82 students @ $300/ea = $24,300

2004 - 77 students @ $350/ea = $29,600

2005 - 61 students @ $450/ea = $30,350

2006 - 92 students @ $300/ea = $27,600

2007 - 75 students @ $500/ea = $37,500

The competitive application process requires that the recipient must be a tribal enrolled member, not just with Central Council, but any region, and qualify for benefits. One must submit a cover letter, transcripts, and proof of acceptance into the chosen program and a statement of educational goals and professional goals as well as a budget forecast.

The program Dabaluz chose focused on five elements, which include: community, business and economic development, community research and indigenous knowledge, land resources and environmental management, rural health and human services management and then tribal and local government administration.

"The goals that I had were to receive a graduate degree and I wanted to focus on rural development," she said. "I work for the Department of Commerce Community and Economic Development in the Division of Community and Regional Affairs. I'm in the grant section and we work with a lot of rural communities throughout Alaska. I'm now the Supervisory Grants Administrator for the Juneau office, so it was a real good fit with where I was professionally and the educational goals I had."

Many people do not see their educational goals through because of financial reasons. Dabaluz points out that these scholarships aren't meant to cover the entire cost of an educational program, but provide supplemental aid.

"It's just been such a godsend," she said. "I know a lot of people that have tried to go to college but couldn't and it was because they didn't have the financial resources. And it just validates you're going in the right direction. Aside from the financial support, the moral support that you get from the organization itself lets you know you are valid and the goals you are pursuing are worthy of their support, financially and morally."

Dabaluz has family history in the Central Council, her grandfather being the first recording secretary. Giving back to the community, she said has always been high priority in her family.

"There's just so many different ways that you can give back in small increments, you could work with other tribal members and try to get them excited about pursuing their goals whether its on a small training track or its something larger or more ambitious," she said.

"But it's really important to try and inspire people to want to change, to try and improve themselves and to work towards self-sufficiency. I think there is no better way to do that than by example."