Tierra Colberg, TCF's Summer 2016 Intern, hard at work supporting the education of Alaska Native people.

Tierra Colberg, TCF’s Summer 2016 Intern, hard at work supporting the education of Alaska Native people.

The end of my junior year at UAS was beginning to approach. Weather in Juneau, while as rainy as ever, was starting to reach toward summertime warmth. Sunshine glowed on the ocean, classes finished one by one, I closed the covers of my heavy elementary education textbooks with a satisfying thump and I began to think about summer employment.

That’s where The CIRI Foundation comes in. I returned home from the long road trip up the ALCAN Highway from Alaska’s capital and fell asleep immediately in the familiar comfort of my own house in the Matsu Valley. The very next morning, I drove into TCF’s office in Anchorage, took a deep breath, and plunged into my very first job interview. The next day, I arrived for my first day of work as TCF’s 2016 summer intern.

I had a very vague idea of what to expect. As a college student and TCF scholarship recipient, I knew personally how impactful and enabling a scholarship could be along the arduous road of college education, but I didn’t know the little world that buzzed on diligently behind the scenes. While working at TCF, my eyes were opened to the intricate processes and procedures that allow us to award scholarships. It was exhilarating to learn so much, both about professional office life and about the details of scholarship and grant processing. I enjoyed learning the series of steps to maneuver through, and then practicing them until I could carry them out quickly and confidently.

I have three favorite experiences from working at The CIRI Foundation. The first was the period of time that culminated in the June 1st deadline, when there was always so much to do and I could clearly perceive how many students we were able to help. The second was the visits we would receive from students dropping by the office to upload documents or ask questions, because I love interacting with the people we are supporting, connecting faces and personalities to the names that I had seen on files, documents, and applications, and seeing the hope and enthusiasm shining in students’ eyes as they described their education dreams. Lastly, I loved the working environment of the TCF office. My wonderful coworkers each brought their senses of humor, genuineness, and kindness to the TCF atmosphere, and they made it such a pleasant place to spend my summer days.

Overall, my experience as the TCF summer intern was a resoundingly positive one. I have a new appreciation of the minute organizational structure that underlies the scholarship application process, I have learned so much about the professional setting, and I am delighted to have been a part of connecting Alaska Native students like myself with the funds that can contribute to letting their dreams soar.

I’m excited to see all of the change and positivity that TCF will continue to unfurl as we move into the future. Immense change can (and usually does!) start by small steps forward, and each footprint behind us takes us one step closer to our dreams. If mountains rise up in front of us, let’s leave our footprints on the summit. If oceans seem to separate us from our goals, let’s build a boat and cross them. If winter snow obscures our vision from the destination, let’s have faith and battle through the storms. I truly believe that, with the support that surrounds us, there is no obstacle too formidable to prevent us from reaching our dreams and making a difference in our world. I’m proud of organizations like The CIRI Foundation that offer their strength to us, and thankful that I was able to be a part of the story this summer.

-Tierra Colberg