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HOPE (Helping Our People Excel) Program

In 2019, the Ahtna Board of Directors launched the HOPE (Helping Our People Excel) Shareholder Program with a primary goal of getting more shareholders employed and gaining work experience. The investment in our people and their ability to secure full-time employment is a priority.

Career Assistance Program

Provides Ahtna shareholders with funding to assist with pre-employment preparation, job improvement and training. The program is open to voting shareholders (Original, Inherited, Gifted, Class L) that are 18 years of age or older. Shareholders must submit an online application to request funding that will improve their career opportunities. Enrollment is open all year round.

Apprenticeship Programs

The best way to learn a construction trade is through an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships combine on-the-job training with formal classroom and hands-on instruction all while getting paid. Ahtna’s Shareholder Enrichment staff can help you find and apply for apprenticeship opportunities.

Walter Charley Memorial Scholarship

The Walter Charley Memorial Scholarship is provided exclusively to Ahtna shareholders and available to full or part-time college-level students.

Ahtna Vocational Scholarship Program

Provides Ahtna shareholders with funding to meet their educational goals in the trades or vocational schools. Enrollment is open all year round.

Resume & Interview Coaching

Ahtna utilized a contractor to assist with interview coaching and professional resume assistance.

Village-based Shareholder Hire Programs and Village Assistance with Land Projects

Ahtna provides funding to Ahtna Tribes which support and promote village-based shareholder employment. The purpose of the funding is to assist Ahtna Villages with project needs and in turn increase beneficial work experience for our shareholders.

If you are interested in any of the programs above, or are looking for educational, training or career assistance, please email shenrichment@ahtna.net or contact Tracy Parent in Anchorage at (907) 868-8250 or Starr Knighten in Glennallen at (907) 822-3476.

HOPE Program Shareholder Success Stories

Our People are Our Strength – Netiye’ means ‘our strength’ in Ahtna Athabascan

Wonder how the HOPE programs can support you in your career goals? Read our HOPE Program Shareholder Success Stories to learn more.


Katrina Moran Vocational Scholarship

Katrina Moran is a member of the Tsisyu (Paint) clan and grew up in Metlakatla, Alaska. Her parents are Meranda and Jeffrey Moran, her maternal grandmother is Helen Murphy, and her paternal grandparents are Doris and Thomas Moran.

Katrina attended Alaska Driving Academy in Soldotna, Alaska where she obtained her Class A Commercial Driver’s License with endorsements. Her goal is to join the Teamsters Union as an apprentice or look for employment for a local fuel delivery company, such as Crowley or North Pacific, in Valdez where she currently resides.

Her advice to Ahtna youth interested in pursuing a similar program is, “Find a passion you think you might enjoy and go for it! Also, always try to improve yourself and your future. Go to college or a vocational school and/or trainings to improve your future and obtain as much knowledge as you can to make you a more valuable worker to multiple companies.”

Katrina is currently employed as a laborer with Houston Contracting on an Alyeska Pipeline contract through the Laborers Union Local 341. Her responsibilities include building scaffolding, insulation and concrete work, painting and sandblasting, carpentry, hazardous waste clean-up, underground digs, and general labor such as weed cutting, snow removal, etc.

“One of the main things I enjoy about my job is that you are not doing the same task every day. You are always doing something different and working outside. I also enjoy all the benefits of my job. With the union we have a great benefits package that includes retirement and healthcare and a competitive pay scale,” said Katrina.

“Ahtna has helped me tremendously through my educational path. They helped me obtain my AA degree through Prince William Sound Community College, led me to joining the apprenticeship program through the Laborers Local 341, and helped me obtain my Class A CDL through the Alaska Driving Academy. Ahtna helped me financially so much through everything I have accomplished, and I am forever grateful,” she shared. “It’s so important to have a great support group behind you and all my family, along with Ahtna, have been the best support through all my educational and vocational endeavors.”

There have been many influential people in Katrina’s life who have shaped her pursuits. Her grandmother Helen taught her to never give up. At 54 years old, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education. Her mother earned her Bachelor of Education and has been a teacher and someone to look up to as long as she can remember, “Not to mention she is my best friend!” Her dad obtained his Bachelor of Science degree and has been one of the best mentors in her life.

Katrina enjoys spending time with family, traveling, fishing, camping, picking berries, hiking, hunting and gathering, and living a subsistence lifestyle.


Federico Salinas-Johns Vocational Scholarship

Federico Salinas-Johns grew up in Copper Center and is a member of the Udzisyu (Caribou) clan. His mother was the late Vickie Johns, and his grandparents were the late Ahtna Traditional Chief Harry Johns Sr. and Ruth Johns.

Federico reached out to Shareholder Enrichment to inquire about furthering his career. We assisted him with the Vocational Scholarship and Career Assistance applications and were able to help him with the tuition and fees associated with attending Northern Industrial Training (NIT) in Palmer. NIT offers training in construction equipment, welding, truck driving and safety. Federico was looking to change careers to something he enjoys and his goal is to join the union and secure work after completion of his program. His advice to other shareholders who may be interested in the program is to “stick with it.” You get better over time he says. “Start slow and smooth, speed comes in time.”

Federico has spent the last five years working for Ahtna Construction & Primary Products Company, LLC as a load operator on the Trans Alaska Pipeline. He says running the equipment is a lot of fun, but you have to be prepared for varied conditions as there are times you must work in inclement weather and rough terrain. Federico credits many people with inspiring him to become an operator. “My supervisors and the crew have always supported me and showed me tricks of the trade to give me an advantage in my career. They have taught me the right way, and the safest way, to get the job done,” he says.

Federico lives in Anchorage and enjoys spending time with his family in his free time.


Olaf Lord Union Apprenticeship Program

Olaf Lord is a member of the Udzisyu (Caribou) clan and is from the village of Gakona. His parents are Gladys and Olaf Lord. His grandmother is the late Florence Tyone and his grandfather is the late Fred Sinyon. His great grandfather is the late Jack Tyone and his great grandmother is the late Elsie Tyone.

Olaf has been a member of Teamsters Local 959 for nine years and currently works at the Glennallen Response Base. His main duty is oil spill response, but he also performs maintenance on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS). This includes flying in a helicopter to inspect the 800-mile-long pipeline.

Good pay and benefits such as healthcare and a retirement plan played a huge part in Olaf deciding to become a Teamster, but he enjoys the added perks of meeting new people and seeing the world. “You are given per diem for travel and the pay can allow you to build your savings so you can afford to buy that new home or car you’ve been wanting.” He adds that you are always learning new things and if you work hard there are opportunities for growth such as moving into a supervisor role or higher paying position. Another reason he recommends a trade is because, “You should have something to fall back on. This year many people were laid off because of COVID, but construction has remained steady.”

“You’re investing in yourself for you and your family. Working in a union brings a feeling of stability. It affords you the ability to fund your own hunting trips. In order to have it all you need a good job, and one of the ways to find that is to join an apprenticeship program.”

Olaf’s advice to shareholders interested in an apprenticeship program is, “Stop doubting yourself. Whatever you think you can’t do, physically or whatever, change your life and remove those barricades you have that are keeping you from applying. Just apply and get your foot in the door. You will gain independence by having a trade. Our Elders want to see us succeed and prosper. I’ve seen people down and out and rise to succeed. Make yourself proud.”

Other helpful tips Olaf shared include:

  • Don’t be afraid to go out and work away from home.
  • Spend wisely while in the apprenticeship, be smart and save.
  • Get experience while you are trying to become an apprentice, recommendations will go far in an apprenticeship program.
  • Show up to work on time, show that you can steadily work before applying for an apprenticeship.
  • Call your fellow shareholders who have been through the process. We are happy to give advice to show you, you can do it.

More tips from Shareholder Enrichment:

  • Build your work experience. Even if you work at home or for a friend, add those skills to your resume. Shareholder Enrichment can assist with creating or updating your resume.
  • Applications must be filled out in full, any blank spaces will be rejected or flagged.
  • Get ready for a Fit Test – Fitness testing includes checking your blood pressure and heart rate and ensuring you are fit for duty by doing exercises such as running up stairs.
  • Expect a drug screening – They all do them, and they vary depending on the apprenticeship.

Palmer Fleury Union Apprenticeship Program

Albert Fleury, or Palmer as his friends and family call him, developed a strong work ethic at a young age. That work ethic stuck with him throughout his career thanks in part to his first job as a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Fire Crew Chief. He was only 16, but showed promise of being a young leader and was assigned his own crew of 25 firefighters. “The best part of my first job was my BLM boss, Fred Rungee. He taught me what good work ethic was, and to not only work hard, but always be dependable,” says Palmer. His crew, which included many shareholders, went all over the state to fight fires. It was hot and hard work being out in the field for a month or more at a time.

Palmer honed his mechanic skills as a teenager by working on his own car, and those of his friends and family. Those skills transferred when he joined the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 302 (IUOE Local 302). He retired from the IUOE Local 302 in 1997 after twenty years of service, but remains a member. He says his favorite part of working in a union was getting that dispatch call. He began as a journeyman, which gave him the chance to work all along the Trans Alaska Pipeline for four years, from Prudhoe Bay all the way down to Valdez. He also worked various construction jobs and helped to build the road for Red Dog Mine and several drill pads on the Slope. Palmer worked year-round, which meant enduring some pretty extreme winter conditions. “The coldest environment I ever worked in was at Prudhoe Bay in -120 degrees below zero wind chill! The hydraulics would freeze up and we could only be outside for 10 minutes at a time,” Palmer recalls.

“Being away from home and living in camps presents its challenges, but you shouldn’t let it deter you from leaving the village to get experience or training,” says Palmer. “It isn’t an easy job, but having a trade can be very rewarding if you stick with it.” Palmer made that part of his mission, to encourage others to stay with the trade and help them to be successful. If he saw someone struggling, he would share problems he had faced and explain how he overcame them. He let them know that nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.

Palmer says he has had shareholders express interest to him in an apprenticeship program, but they hesitate to pursue one because they were worried about mistakes they made when they were younger. He tells them that shouldn’t stop them from applying and it’s important to get experience any way you can. The union requires a certain amount of experience and employer recommendations before they will accept you. Also, there are extra expenses involved in becoming a mechanic or oiler, as you need to provide your own tools and clothing. Palmer said the minimum for mechanic tools can run from $5-6 thousand, and you should take pride in taking care of your tools because that is your livelihood.

“I hope young people interested in working and getting a trade apprenticeship see it, and try it. Regardless of where they want to work, I hope they get training, do their own research, and stay with it. That’s the main thing, don’t give up. The union provides good paying jobs, regardless of what area you choose. It’s up to you as the individual in the end to stick with it. You just need to prove yourself and then won’t have any problem going to work,” says Palmer.

Palmer is a member of the Taltsiine (Water) clan, which is named for the many rivers where his ancestors lived and hunted. Palmer and his wife Linda have four children: Donna, Melissa, Jerry, and Dominic. His mother was the late Leona Joe, and her father was the late Tazlina Joe. His grandfather used to have a village at Tazlina Lake in the early 20s and 30s and that is where his aunts and uncles were born.


Erika Empey Career Assistance Program

We have helped many shareholders through the Career Assistance program and will be sharing their success stories in the Kanas. Ahtna recently supported Erika Empey with funding to earn her Hawaii State Esthetician License. Erika was hired at a luxury resort in Kona within weeks of graduating. Erika’s goal is to eventually start her own esthetician business, and we are proud to play a part in helping her reach her goals.

“I will be making a very decent income, and I am so excited to get started. All the paperwork and overall resort training took a couple weeks. It feels so amazing to be starting a career that is my passion and doesn’t feel like ‘work’. In addition, the resort has machines and products that we didn’t get to use in school, so I will be continuing to learn new modalities within the field of esthetics. Thank you again Tracy Parent, and to Ahtna and the board. I appreciate having the financial help to get me through a rough time with making my payments for my school, and just trying to stay afloat the last couple months of school.”


Ve'dra Bechtol Walter Charley Memorial Scholarship

Shareholder employee Ve’dra Bechtol’s career with Ahtna began 20 years ago when she was hired as a janitor. She is now a Benefits Analyst III in the Human Resources department and oversees the Anchorage front desk staff as part of her development plan. “Back when I started with Ahtna, there were little to no development or mentor plans,” she said.

“This last year I have seen a major push within Ahtna to develop shareholder employees, which is so very exciting! I have weekly mentoring meetings with my supervisor who has been wonderful in guiding me through the process for my new supervisor role. I have also been able to take advantage of the employee education program that assists with my tuition.” Ve’dra earned a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Science degree from Wayland Baptist University .

Ve’dra is a member of the Udzisyu (Caribou) clan, and her parents are John and Carol Craig. Her maternal grandparents are Archie and Mary Bindara, and her paternal grandparents are Oscar and Ella Craig. She is married to Matthew Bechtol, and they have 5 children: the late Joey Trantham, Melissa Trantham, Jason Trantham, Madison Bechtol and Matthew Bechtol II.


Daryl Nicki Jordan Walter Charley Memorial Scholarship

When Nicki was asked why she chose the medical field she replied, “I wanted to be able to have a career where I am able to provide an important service to the community and help others through my work. I found medicine to be an incredibly fascinating field where I could be intellectually challenged and be helpful.”

My post-graduate plans are to begin my medical residency training in the specialty of anesthesiology at Stanford University Hospital beginning at the end of June. This is a four-year program where I will continue to learn how to best manage patients who are undergoing surgical procedures and ensure that they remain stable and comfortable during the operation.

I also plan on continuing to mentor others, especially other Indian students, towards careers as physicians. We have the capacity to make great change to our society and to our communities by becoming leaders in the field of medicine and other science-dominated fields. I would love to see the future generations have a voice in the way that science and medicine is shaped and used to better the lives of Ahtna people.

I think the biggest lesson I have learned on this long journey to becoming a physician is that you should never be the person who is holding yourself back from achieving your goals. I think there is a tendency to doubt our abilities and assume that we are not smart enough or do not have what it takes to be successful. But if you really want something you owe it to yourself and your family to go for it and try.

Nicki has an important message for Native people, especially Native women. “We can be doctors (and lawyers, and politicians, and even presidents). We can be successful, smart, and hold positions of power. I want to role model that these careers are absolutely achievable for our people and also make sure there are Native voices at the table. Healthcare is so important, and we need more Native people to lead the discussions that affect our health and the health of our communities.”


Katie Finnesand Walter Charley Memorial Scholarship

Shareholder Katie Finnesand’s interest in working for Ahtna began almost 10 years ago when she was hired by a survey company performing a cadastral survey on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands in Ahtna’s traditional territory and on Ahtna 14(h)(1) sites. Under Section 14(h)(1) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), Alaska Native Regional Corporations were allowed to submit applications to obtain title to lands across the state containing Native historical places and cemetery sites. Katie had the honor of visiting many remote cultural properties—some sites had obvious remaining structures, such as graves, cabins, rafts, or house and cache pits. Others were not so obvious to her inexperienced eye, and she was inspired to learn more about the history of the Ahtna people in these areas. Katie wanted to find clues about each site’s geographic location near a river confluence, on a mountain or bordering a lake, for example, and figure out what made the location useful and occupiable. “This first exposure made me appreciate the land that we’ve inherited and was the catalyst in pursuing a career in land management,” Katie remarked.

Katie has progressed in her career to become an Ahtna land & resource specialist. This year brought new experience in project management for various ventures in the Ahtna Land Department as Katie continues with field work related to forest inventory, soils inventory and wildlife. Land and resources is a dynamic field and Katie enjoys the operations aspect of her job, planning and executing projects that require the department to mobilize in some fashion.

One of Katie’s most recent projects has been developing a set of public informational signs for the Chitina area. The purpose of the signage is to communicate land status and rules for the permitted use of corporation lands in that area. The northern Copper River Highway segment (locally known as the O’Brien Creek trail) reopened this year for the first time in over a decade, and there has already been a sharp increase in fishermen and recreationists along the route this season. The Chitina Joint Task Force, a dedicated group representing Chitina Traditional Indian Village Council, Chitina Native Corporation and Ahtna, Incorporated, is collaborating to implement an area management plan that will protect vulnerable cultural resources within or in proximity to the public right-of-way.

When asked what the “Our Land Sustains Us” part of Ahtna’s vision statement means to her, Katie responded, “I think of how it sustains us spiritually, socially, and physically. You draw a certain energy from being home that some aren’t aware of until they leave. The land provides physical sustenance which fuels our cultural and social connections.”

Several folks encouraged Katie to go back to school and of course she naturally gravitated toward natural resource management. Ahtna has supported her education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) through the Walter Charley Memorial Scholarship Program and allowed her to flex her work schedule to accommodate her academics. She has served in several seasonal roles including bear guard, carbon intern, seasonal Natural Resource Technician (NRT), and wildlife/forestry technician.

Katie’s advice to shareholder youth who are interested in the land and resources field is, “Get in there. There are temporary laborer or seasonal positions available at Ahtna to get your foot in the door to get experience. A few seasons of work experience or higher education can lead to a permanent position. I would recommend going to college after high school, which will make you more flexible of an employee for any agency and you can transition to a position you like easier. There’s a wide range of educational fields that support land and resources, such as ecology, natural resource management, biology, wildlife biology, fire science, GIS, IT, political science, finance, tribal management, business administration, etc., so don’t be afraid to dabble in different ones if you’re unsure of what direction you really want to go at first.”

About Katie Finnesand

Katie’s parents are Martin and Taña Finnesand. Her maternal grandparents are Margaret (Lloyd) Spence and the late Jim Spence of Wenatchee, WA, and her paternal grandparents are the late Neil and Hannah (Bell) Finnesand of Chitina, AK. Katie grew up in the Copper River Valley and now lives in Copper Center.


Kiana Carlson Ahtna Special Forces

Kiana Carlson interned as an Ahtna Special Forces member for Ahtna Support and Training Services (ASTS) working out of Ahtna’s Anchorage office. Her parents are Vernon and Susan Carlson and her grandparents are Bud and Edna Carlson (paternal) and Donna and Bob Ericksen (maternal). She grew up in Cantwell, Alaska and is a member of the Taltsiine (Water) clan.

Kiana earned a Bachelor of Arts in History with a minor in Alaska Native Studies from the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) in May 2021. “I chose to study history because I have always loved history. Growing up I loved listening to stories about old time Cantwell that my grandpa, dad and uncles would share. Studying history not only lets me do something that I genuinely love, but it also helps me in my education and career goals.”

We are proud to share that Ahtna shareholder Kiana Carlson was appointed in 2022 to serve as one of seventeen members of the Department of the Interior (DOI) Advisory Committee on Reconciliation in Place Names. DOI Secretary Haaland announced the advisory committee on Aug. 9, the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Haaland, the nation’s first Native American Cabinet secretary, said a newly created federal advisory committee will review and recommend changes to derogatory federal land names, according to a U.S. Department of the Interior press release.


Jason Ashenfelter Ahtna Special Forces

Jason Ashenfelter Jr. has joined Ahtna’s Human Resources team based in the Anchorage office. He is a member of the Taltsiine (Water) clan, and his parents are Jason Sr. and Amber Ashenfelter. “I wouldn’t be who I am without my parents’ love and support,” he says. His maternal grandparents are Kenneth and Leona Johns, and his paternal grandfather is Jerry Mahle Sr.

Jason began his career with Ahtna in 2019 as an intern in the Ahtna Special Forces program and was later hired as an on-call administrative assistant. His recent promotion has proven invaluable, giving him exposure to multiple departments. “It has distinguished my character, as well as ambitions,” he says.

Jason earned a vocational accounting certificate from Alaska Job Corps in 2019. In his new HR associate position he performs records management, data screening and entry, as well as specialized project management and versatile position replacement.

“I love learning in-depth how a corporation works and how Ahtna enriches its people and culture. Ahtna, Inc. is a unique corporation that specializes in enriching, preserving, and adapting the Ahtna people and its culture. Ahtna culture, values and our way of life has kept our ancestors alive for thousands of years in one of the most harsh and richest lands; that itself proves it’s invaluable to not only our people, but to future generations and the world to see,” Jason shared.