United States President Barack Obama with Raina Thiele, Associate Director of
Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement.
I was born and raised in various parts of the great state of Alaska. My mom (Dena’ina Athabascan) is from Lake Iliamna and my dad (Yup’ik and German) is from Alexander Creek near Mt. Susitna. From a young age, I knew that I wanted to get an education that would enable me to pursue my passions. However, as a first generation college student, I had to feel my way through the college application and financing process as though I were fumbling through an obstacle course in the dark.
At that early stage of my life, I could never have imagined that 15 years later I’d have earned credentials from Yale and Harvard, and worked for President Obama at the White House.
One of the keys to making my success a possibility was the help of the CIRI Foundation’s scholarship program. Those scholarships enabled me to attend Yale College for four years, attend the Harvard Kennedy School for a 2-year Master in Public Policy program, and ultimately prepared me to take on the momentous task of working at the White House. Over the years, the folks at the CIRI Foundation have offered me advice, support and friendship, even after my educational goals had been reached.
My advice to all of those who seek to achieve their most lofty aspirations is to take full advantage of the resources that are available to you. If you are eligible for a CIRI Foundation Scholarship or one of the other myriad sources of financial aid available, go for it! I guarantee that you won’t regret the work that goes into attaining a quality higher education. Believe in yourself and your ability to realize your dreams. As I’ve learned, anything is within grasp.