juneau, Alaska (KINY) An undergraduate student at the Alaska Pacific University who is pursuing a degree in counseling psychology has won Sealaska Heritage Institute’s 2018 Judson L. Brown Leadership Award.
Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI), through its Scholarship Committee, has chosen Sharnel Yaqagal Vale, a Tlingit Raven from the Kwaashk’I Kwáan Clan and the Half-Moon House in Yakutat.
Vale works full time at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, where she has led numerous projects to advance the cultural, social and economic well-being of Alaska Native people. She is especially interested in the mental-health care approach known as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which measures the effects of childhood trauma and how those experiences trigger organic disease later in life.
Vale’s senior project on ACES will study Alaska Native people who have experienced high amounts of childhood trauma and were resilient. She plans to question people in a culturally-appropriate way that will include talking circles rather than one-on-one interviews.
“Research is abundant in non-Native populations, but there is a severe research gap I would like to close for identifying resilience strategies in Alaska Native populations,” Vale said. “The ultimate goal of my study would be to determine what protective factors had the most impact on resilient Alaska Native people’s lives, then use this information to develop intervention and prevention programs that are more effective and culturally appropriate for our people.”
The $5,000 scholarship goes to students who have demonstrated academic achievement and leadership skills, said SHI President Rosita Worl. Only one person wins the annual award.
“We were very impressed by this candidate’s commitment to succeeding not only for herself but for her tribe and community,” Worl said. “We were also taken by the fact that she is successfully pursuing her goals while working full time and earning a near 4.0 grade point average.”
The leadership award comes from an endowment established in 2006 through a $100,000 donation from Chris and Mary McNeil. It was named for Chris McNeil’s uncle, the late Tlingit leader Judson Lawrence Brown, who was a forceful advocate for education and leadership development. The endowment is administered by Sealaska Heritage Institute.
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.