Our region is filled with an abundance of natural resources. Fish and game; energy and fuel—these are the things that have sustained the people of Bristol Bay for ages. And there’s another resource, perhaps the most valuable of all, that will sustain us into the future—our young people. Young people are our economic and cultural torch-bearers, and carry our way of life into the next generation.
Investing in opportunity for youth benefits everyone in the community. It creates cultural leaders, a more skilled and experienced workforce, and brings a sense of accomplishment. That’s why for the past 25 years, the BBNC Education Foundation has provided more than 4,000 scholarships with the funding they need to help bring their dreams to fruition.
That’s a big number, but it wasn’t always that way. The Foundation started small. Andria Agli, the Interim Executive Director, recalls those early days fondly: “We handed out roughly 10-20 scholarship awards per year so we’ve definitely come a long way. Today, as we grow the endowment fund and the programs we are involved in, we are able to help so many more people and the communities they live in.” At its core the Foundation is about realizing and rewarding ambition. That might not always mean a scholarship for post-secondary education like college. The Foundation also recognizes the value of certification programs that enhance job skills, so it awards funding to help pay for short-term vocational training. These scholarships help shareholders achieve specialized certifications or training to improve employment or career opportunities.
“It’s really exciting to see our young people getting degrees or training. There have even been a few that received their doctorate. Once they set a goal and work hard to achieve it, there is no limit to what they can do,” Marie Paul, President of the Foundation Board, said. “This is a good investment into everyone’s future.”
Over the last few years the Foundation has created two grant programs that aim to help the people of Bristol Bay build and maintain a connection with their cultural and ancestral traditions. The Cultural Heritage and the Native Place Names grant programs keep the transfer of knowledge between Elders and youth in sharp focus. “As our cultural activities fade away, especially things like place names, it’s so important to allow our Elders to pass their understanding on to the young people,” Marie said. “It can be things like mask making, fish hook making, fish trap making, or anything that will teach them the cultural ways. The more our young people know, the better.” Both grants will award project funding of up to $5,000 and are available via application to Bristol Bay tribes, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations. Leading edge programs like this not only demonstrate an understanding of community needs, they give the Foundation staying power by ensuring our cultural preservation.
With a quarter century of hard work and exponential growth now in the rearview, the team at the Foundation looks forward. “There are more than 10,000 shareholders that we get up in the morning and work for, and we will do everything we can to help as many as possible,” Andria said. BBNC is very proud of the successes of the Education Foundation over the past quarter century, and we’re eager to see what the next 25 years hold in store.