Doyon Foundation has helped me every step of the way”

– Diva Velez

A 2021 graduate of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), Diva Velez holds an associate degree in process technology, an applied technology program for students entering careers in oil and gas production, power generation, and wastewater treatment facility maintenance, among others. Diva is the daughter of  Dolorous Folger and John Walsh of Tanana. Her maternal grandparents are Lillian and William Folger of Tanana, and her paternal grandparents are Esther Walsh of Tanana and John Walsh. Diva lives in North Pole, where her family includes 2-year-old daughter, Iris.

Doyon Foundation: Your degree in process technology is really versatile, but the field may be new to some students. How would you explain it?

Diva Velez: A process tech degree opens up many job fields involving different materials and equipment, which makes it interesting. What makes it even more interesting is that the careers incorporate math and science along with a knowledge of technology.

I hope to find work soon as a process tech operator. In the meantime, I’m welcoming a new addition into the family soon and I’m working full-time as an accounting clerk. I’m also considering a second applied associate degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, this time in accounting. It’s another example of a degree that you can use in so many other fields. Eventually, I want to continue my education with a Bachelor of Science degree in applied technology leadership from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

DF: You’re among students who’ve received steady help from Doyon Foundation to cover costs of education.

DV: I’ve been getting scholarships from Doyon Foundation since I was 18 and it continues to provide me with help. Doyon Foundation is very supportive of education – it has helped me every step of the way. And if you have questions about scholarship applications, the team is great.

Thank you, Doyon Foundation, for all the help over the years. And thanks to my family and friends for their encouraging support.

DF: Students often say that they learn as much about themselves in college as they do in their degrees. Is that true for you too?

DV: Yes. I’ve found that I work very well under pressure – I have dyslexia and an undiagnosed attention deficit along with a neurology disorder – and I often wait to the last minute to do my homework. I might finish half a semester of work in three days without much sleep.

I’ve also learned to be self-aware if I’m reading and my attention wanders or if I don’t understand an assignment. That’s when I know to pick it up later, to do the reading another time. What works for me is to keep trying to do the homework even if I don’t accomplish much the first time around. And sometimes I do my schoolwork in the middle of the night when it’s quiet.

DF: So you’d say that success in school depends in part on knowing yourself along with how to come up with workarounds.

DV: School is about sacrifice but if you’re not getting as much sleep or leisure time, it’s important to try to take a day off. To help with concentration when studying, study music from YouTube is a life saver! Study music quiets other thoughts on my mind so that I’m able to concentrate on what I’m reading. 

I’d remind students to rest and relax. Set wake-up alarms and take 15-minute naps. Drink water. Don’t give up! For instance, if you’re starting to think about dropping a class, first do everything you can to avoid dropping. Universities usually have great tutors to help in your core classes. At UAF, the tutors are really nice. Sometimes working with a tutor will earn you extra credit.

I’ve also learned the value of researching your classes and a professor’s teaching style. Not all teachers can teach to all students. Whatever you’re confronting as a student, just keep going and don’t give up.

DF: What about life beyond the classroom? What’s that like for you?

DV: Getting outdoors a few minutes a day with my 2-year-old, Iris, to enjoy sunshine with her in summer and snowmachine rides in winter. When I’m not in school, I like reading books for pleasure.

I like spending time at a lake with family and friends and I enjoy gatherings at church and for birthdays and holidays. I like to say that my favorite activity is putting Iris to bed. But lately she ends up putting me to bed!

Doyon Foundation is pleased to provide scholarship funding to vocational students like Diva. In addition to the short-term vocational scholarship, which cover the cost of the course or training up to $3,000, vocational students are also eligible for the Foundation’s basic scholarships, which range from $1,600 to $2,400 per semester, and competitive scholarships, which range from $7,000 to $11,000. Learn more about the Foundation’s vocational scholarship opportunities on our blog.