“I have someone looking up to me”

A 2010 graduate of Soldotna High School, Chael Idzinski is pursuing a certificate in the diesel and heavy equipment technologies program at AVTEC, the vocational technical training center overseen by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Chael’s family includes his 3-year-old daughter, Lily-Ana.

By the time he was 28, Chael Idzinski had worked his way up from a technician’s job in a Soldotna-area tire shop to a management role. He went on to earn a commercial driver’s license and was operating heavy rigs for an Alaska trucking outfit when a group of students from AVTEC, the Alaska Vocational Technical Center in Seward, happened to visit on a field trip. The students were preparing for careers in industries that rely on diesel-engine equipment and Chael, a new parent determined to be his daughter’s role model, began to think seriously about going back to school.

“But whenever I thought about school or college, I thought about dorms and dorm rooms and being separated for some time from my loved ones,” Chael said. “That’s never a good idea to be away from family.”

When he learned that the trucking company turned to AVTEC for certified employees at higher salaries, Chael said he became interested in enrolling. His biggest challenge: Overcoming the thought that he could choose his family or school but not both. The solution: Family housing at AVTEC and a vocational scholarship through Doyon Foundation.

Doyon Foundation is committed to the success of students like Chael. Over the past five years, a third of Doyon Foundation scholarships have been awarded to students in programs leading to jobs that require a credential other than a four-year or advanced degree. Recent scholarship students have gone on to emerging occupations in business, health, home studies and trade. Vocational scholarships through Doyon Foundation include short-term awards for students in a program of fewer than 120 hours, as well as part-time and full-time basic scholarships and competitive scholarships for students in longer programs.

“Doyon Foundation helped me greatly,” Chael said. “Everyone I talk with has been so helpful. They pointed me in the right direction and had all the information I needed. Without them, who’s to know if I could have even started school.” In fact, Chael plans to continue at AVTEC beyond heavy equipment training to earn a welding certificate – advancing his future once again with Doyon Foundation help.

Heavy equipment, much of it diesel-engine powered, typically accounts for more than half the investment in businesses such as mining, construction, highway transportation and logging. AVTEC students learn to service, maintain and repair this complex equipment using technology like dedicated scan tools for diagnostics. The program attracts students with mechanical aptitude, a good work ethic and strong skills in reading and math.

AVTEC school days are organized as eight-hour workdays, a schedule not lost on Chael’s daughter, Lily-Ana. “She’ll say, ‘Is your school work, Dad?’ and I take some pride in having her see that I’m going to school every day,” Chael said. “I have someone looking up to me.”

The benefits of being a student even extend to his expanding toolbox.

“It’s interesting over time to gain the tools you need for every job you encounter,” Chael said. High-end toolmakers offer student discounts, sometimes up to half off the purchase price. Among his recent acquisitions: A 36-inch breaker bar when greater leverage is needed to break loose very tight fasteners. “It makes life so much easier,” Chael said.

“It’s never too late,” he said about his decision to return to school. “Mom and Dad always told me what I’d tell other students: Education is the easiest route to achieve your goals. And, yeah, it’s going to take some time and it may not be easy but it’s worth it!”

Are you a student enrolled part-time or full-time in a vocational or technical program? We encourage you to apply for a 2021 – 2022 competitive scholarship, specifically for vocational/technical students, and funded by the Alyeska Pipeline Native Scholarship Program. Deadline to apply is Monday, May 17, 2021. Learn more