The awards, mostly funded by Sealaska Corporation, will help students pursuing graduate and undergraduate degrees and voc-tech training during the 2008-2009 school year. A portion also will fund heritage studies, language studies and culture camps.
The scholarships for university and voc-tech studies went to 338 Alaska Natives, said Rosita Worl, president of SHI, which administers the scholarship program for Sealaska.
"Sealaska made a commitment to support higher education for our students by establishing an endowment in order to prepare our young generations to run our own corporations and tribal organizations and to ensure an enhanced quality of life for themselves and future generations whatever fields they choose to enter," Worl said.
SHI also made the first Judson L. Brown Leadership Award from an endowment established in 2006 by a $100,000 donation from Chris and Mary McNeil. The award was named after Chris McNeil's uncle, the late Tlingit leader Judson Lawrence Brown, a forceful advocate for education and leadership development. The award supports college education and leadership development of Sealaska shareholders and their descendants.
The first award of $5,000 was given to William A. Andrews, Jr., a senior at the University of Alaska Southeast who has applied for admission to the school's Masters in Public Administration program. Williams served as president of UAS student government and currently serves as the statewide student representative on the University of Alaska Board of Regents. He also has participated in numerous Native language and culture programs.
Williams' academic achievements coupled with his leadership skills made him a good choice for the award, said Chris McNeil, who also serves as president and chief executive officer of Sealaska Corporation.
"William will be a very good example to future applicants for this leadership award," McNeil said. "He's the kind of person who people can follow and aspire to be able to have high achievement of leadership both within and without the Alaska Native community."
Sealaska Corporation is an Alaska Native corporation formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971, a settlement of all aboriginal claims within the state of Alaska between Alaska Natives and the federal government. The majority of scholarships awarded are provided by Sealaska from a scholarship endowment and corporate 7 (i) sharing provisions established under ANCSA. Sealaska founded the nonprofit Sealaska Heritage Institute in 1980 to run the corporation's cultural and educational programs. The scholarship program is one of many programs operated by the institute. The scholarships are given annually, and the total award is based partly on income earned from the endowment.