School is definitely a marathon! Take care of yourself”

– Shondiin Mayo

Shondiin Mayo is the daughter of Violet Hunt of Ts’aa Bii Kin, Arizona, and Randy Mayo of Stevens Village. Her maternal grandparents are the late Jean Tallman of Ts’aa Bii Kin, Arizona, and Harry Hunt of Naataanii Nez, New Mexico. Shondiin’s paternal grandparents are Marjorie Sam of Stevens Village and the late Tucky Mayo of Rampart.

Shondiin earned a bachelor’s degree in 2021 from Northern Arizona University (NAU), where she studied creative media and film with an emphasis in documentary filmmaking. She’s pursuing a Master of Arts degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and, in summer 2021, was among student interns at the Doyon Family of Companies. Shondiin’s hometown is Steven Village.

Doyon Foundation: Congratulations on being among Doyon, Limited summer interns, a program aimed at giving students a chance to learn about their Alaska Native corporation and gain resume-building skills.

Shondiin Mayo: Thanks! I’ll be working on nonpartisan efforts to promote “Get Out the Native Vote.” I’m excited to work on projects to let voters know that Election Day is Tuesday, October 5. It’s part of a nationwide effort to protect voting rights and encourage American Indians and Alaska Native people to vote.

I’ve learned a lot about the importance of voting and the history of voting rights for Indigenous people. I’m so thankful for the chance to apply my skills and knowledge as an intern. I wanted to understand more about Doyon, Limited because it plays a big role in a shareholder’s life.

DF: And after your internship?

SM: Starting in the fall, I’ll be a master’s student in the Arctic and Northern Studies Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). I’m really looking forward to learning more about the circumpolar north that we call home. Beyond that, I’d like to pursue a doctorate at UAF and then contribute to my people and the community in a job I’m passionate about.

I’m excited to take next steps in my education – I’m still learning about myself – and Doyon Foundation’s financial support helps in immense ways. Students like me can pursue our goals. I’m eternally grateful.

DF: What did you learn about deciding on a college major? Students sometimes find this challenging.

SM: I had several majors before finding the creative media and film program at my university. Even before I entered the program, I found that I really enjoyed helping friends with their film projects. Filmmaking combines the freedom to tell a story in a creative way with the responsibility of sharing your perspective with an audience.

DF: So you built on what you were most naturally interested in and suited to.

SM: Yes. I found that everyone in the NAU cohort was committed to storytelling. That shared purpose fostered camaraderie throughout our projects. And it was super interesting to learn that filmmaking needs a lot of research in the pre-production stage. For instance, there’s immense effort that goes into drafting schedules, choosing equipment and completing a light study to control shadows and maintain the contrast in a scene.

DF: And beyond the classroom? What was it like attending a university so far from home?

SM: That was the biggest challenge – being far from family and a familiar environment. It was difficult to adjust to at first. A tip for success I’d like to pass along is the importance of finding a support system, whatever shape it takes. Take care of yourself!

School is definitely a marathon, but it was also very exhilarating to explore new surroundings, to visit other states, and to make new friends. It’s a chance to grow as a person. And I knew that Alaska would always be home, it would always be there.

DF: You enjoy volunteer projects that sound as if they could be movie sets!

SM: That’s true. I volunteer with the Fairbanks Outboard Association and now that I’ve returned to Alaska, I hope to volunteer with the Alaska Dog Mushers Association – so yes, I like these environments because of all the energy and the people in the crowd.

Boat races are such great events for the community. And think of the sound of all those dog teams that just want to get on the track and get going. It’s exciting!

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