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Sealaska welcomes a record-breaking 35 interns to Juneau with Sealaska Connect Week

by Evan Roberts, Shareholder Development Intern

In early June, Sealaska welcomed 35 students from across Alaska and the rest of the country to Juneau for the 2023 Sealaska Intern Connect Week — five days full of learning and bonding for Sealaska’s 2023 intern class. For the next few months, Sealaska’s interns will embark on different projects across the country — and globe — spanning diverse fields, from finance and investment to cultural engagement and storytelling to natural resource and sustainable seafood development. But during Connect Week, they were all together in Juneau to experience a week of programming aimed at grounding them in professional development and cultural engagement activities to prepare them for the summer ahead. Kayla Roberts, Senior Shareholder Development Manager, strives for a week that interns will leave “feeling comfortable with who you are and how you got there, and making sure you can bring it into your career wherever you go.” 

“Sealaska Intern Connect Week was the perfect blend of meeting new people while getting to experience the beauty of Southeast Alaska and our shared Alaska Native heritage. My favorite activities were the beach trips and tea blending as they brought Alaska and my native heritage alive in a completely different way than ever before.”

– Vanessa Auth: Finance and Investment Intern, Sealaska

Connect Week helped show Sealaska interns that their professional careers are just the beginning, and Sealaska is here to support them in their paths ahead, no matter where they lead. The week offered interns many opportunities to learn from Sealaska leadership and discover more about the company they are spending time with this summer, including a presentation from President and CEO Anthony Mallott on Sealaska’s vision and values, a presentation from VP Jaeleen Kookesh on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and the formation of Sealaska, and a presentation from COO Terry Downes on Sealaska’s ocean-health based business platform.  

Under the guidance of Sealaska’s Director of Human Resources, Max McCullar, interns took the CoreStrengths assessment to learn about how each of them works best in a collaborative work environment, and, through this, learned about the different ways to best work with and support one another. The interns had opportunities to learn about what their lives might look like after this summer, with a panel discussion from Sealaska intern alumni and a presentation on advocating for oneself in early career stages from Roberts, who oversees the intern program. 

“I was an intern last summer and missed Connect Week to attend a conference. This year, I feel I had a much stronger start to my internship, particularly because of the sheer amount of people within and outside Sealaska that visited with us and offered their support and expertise. Mentorship is so vital in programs like these, and the Sealaska Internship program is a truly great example of a community full of mentors.”

– Muriel Reid: Storytelling and Engagement Intern, Sustainable Southeast Partnership

Beyond professional development, Sealaska interns had unique opportunities to participate in cultural engagement activities.  Interns went to the beach to relax, play games, make s’mores, and several went on ocean dips. The next day included a walk on the beach, where the group learned to identify medicinal plants and took part in a talking circle with wellness specialist Alicia T’óok’ Xoo Háni Maryott, where they learned to blend tea from some of the very same plants they had just learned to identify. The last full day of Intern Connect Week began with breakfast with Tlingit elder Paul Marks, Sr., who graciously shared stories with the interns and then taught a Língit language class. Another Língit class was taught by Anna Clock, as well as X̱aad Kil by Lauryn Framke and Sm’algyax by Donna May Roberts. After language classes, the interns went to the global launch ceremony of the Hōkūleʻa.

“Connect Week was a main reason of why I wanted to intern with Sealaska this summer. I was born in Juneau, but raised in Seattle. Throughout my childhood, I had only visited Juneau a few times. During the week, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet all the interns, learn more about my culture, and visit my hometown. I think the week was planned out perfectly and it gave me time to visit my relatives in Juneau. I really appreciate Sealaska taking the time to plan Connect Week, I will truly cherish it always.

– Alana Walkush: Communications Intern, Sealaska

“I am so grateful to intern with a corporation that cares so much about our culture, land, and people. It was invaluable to get involved with our heritage through Lingít stories, flora and fauna scavenger hunts, and indigenous language workshops, all while being orientated into the workplace.”

– Chariety Moler: Native Land and Resources Intern, Tlingit & Haida

Connect Week was an amazing opportunity for the Sealaska internship class of 2023 to meet, learn, grow, and form friendships. The interns span a diverse range of backgrounds, ages, and interests: some interns grew up in Southeast Alaska and some were visiting for the first time, interns were at all different stages in their educational careers —  working on Associates, Bachelors, and Masters degrees or starting their post-graduate careers. The nature of Sealaska’s internship program provides different opportunities for students of all interests —  there are positions in finance and investment, storytelling, educational and cultural camps, and work with Sealaska’s partners including the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Tlingit & Haida and New England Seafood International. The nature of Connect Week also provides interns with community, no matter where their internship is located. Connect Week included an intern dinner at Zeralda’s Bistro and sister Alaska Native Corporation Goldbelt, Inc. provided each student with a pass to Juneau’s Goldbelt Tram. A group of interns took the tram together after the workday ended on Thursday, had dinner at the restaurant on top of the tram and even celebrated an intern’s birthday! 

Connect Week was an opportunity for the interns to learn about Sealaska and their goals for the rest of the summer, but also provided the group with a chance to make long-lasting connections with their Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peers.  

“Connect Week was awesome as usual. The activities can be so fun but the real fruit is connecting with other young Alaska Natives, community building in the form of learning about and spending time with each other. I am always excited to meet my fellow Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian friends and build that network. It’s a bond unlike any other.”

– Taylor Heaton: Environmental Technician, Los Alamos National Lab


Photos throughout captured by Sydney Akagi