Doyon Foundation student Michelle Garrett is one of four students who received a $7,000 scholarship to attend the Law Enforcement Academy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Tanana Valley Campus this spring.
The goal of the scholarship, which is made possible through the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company Alaska Native Program, is to increase the number of Alaska Natives working on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
“I applied for the Doyon scholarship and was one of the lucky recipients,” said Garrett, who is originally from the village of Beaver and currently lives in Fairbanks. “I joined the academy because I need something new and exciting, as well as a career.”
After completing the program in May 2008, Garrett said she hopes to work with Doyon Security, where she expects to be a guard either on a military base or on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
Garrett already has a history in the field of public service. For the past six years, she has spent her summers fighting fires in Alaska and all over the West Coast as an urban interface wildland firefighter.
“I started firefighting the day after I graduated high school, and I have fought fires every season since,” said Garrett, who attended West Valley and Lathrop high schools, and graduated in 2002.
Garrett said she was inspired to become a firefighter by her mother, who has fought fires for the past 18 years. She was also encouraged by her UAF professors, Mike McGowan and Gary Hopkins, and her bosses, Peter Esmailka, Clay Nelson, Robbie Stevens, Nathan Zelewski, Cameron Winfrey, Jeremiah Silas and Louie Silas.
“There is something special about each and every one of them. If it wasn’t for all of my bosses, I wouldn’t be the firefighter that I am today,” Garrett said.
Pursuing her education and deciding what to do with her future hasn’t been easy for Garrett, but she said she’s learned the best thing to do is to follow your heart.
“If you don’t know what you are doing or what you want in life, you just have to keep trying new things until you find yourself,” she said.
When she’s not fighting fires or studying, Garrett said she enjoys snowboarding, snow machining, sewing, cooking, and spending time with friends and family, including her siblings, Austin, Brandon, Trinity and Travis.
Garrett is the daughter of Delores Pitka and Michael Garrett, and the granddaughter of the late Julia Pitka, and Thomas and Alberta Jean Garrett.