In our Storyteller profile series, we highlight the dreams, journeys and achievements of Doyon Foundation students, alumni and supporters. In this Storyteller supporter profile, Doyon Foundation executive director Tiffany Simmons speaks with one of our alumni and loyal donors, Sarah Obed. Watch the full interview below, or read a transcript of the interview, with minor edits for clarity.

TIFFANY SIMMONS: Welcome, everybody, to our Storyteller series. In this episode of Storyteller, we’re here with Sarah Obed, a past Doyon Foundation scholarship recipient, and now a loyal Doyon Foundation supporter. Thank you so much, Sarah, for joining us today.

SARAH OBED: Thanks, Tiffany. I really appreciate the opportunity to share with you today.

TIFFANY SIMMONS:  To start, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you grew up, and who your family is?

SARAH OBED: Sure. I grew up as Sarah Sherry, for those of you that knew me when I was younger. My parents are Paul and Irene Sherry; my mom is from Minto and my dad came up to Alaska as a VISTA volunteer, and stayed with them for a little bit, but mainly started working for Tanana Chiefs Conference, where he met my mom. So I grew up here in Fairbanks and my family is from Minto, and about 10 years ago I married my husband, so now I’m Sarah Obed.

TIFFANY SIMMONS:  Wonderful. So you received a Doyon Foundation scholarship as a student. Can you tell us a little bit about your educational journey?

SARAH OBED: Sure. I went to school in Seattle, I went to the University of Washington, in undergrad, and I got my bachelor’s degree in American Indian Studies. I got the Doyon Foundation basic scholarships throughout my undergrad. After I graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle, I moved to Anchorage and I worked for First Alaskans Institute for a while until I joined the Peace Corps. I served two years in the Peace Corps and that’s where I met my husband. Before we moved back to Fairbanks, I went to grad school and applied for and received the competitive scholarship when I was getting my Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Michigan. It was after that degree that I came back and started working for Doyon, Limited.

TIFFANY SIMMONS:  So what did Doyon Foundation’s support mean to you?

SARAH OBED: It’s been a while since I’ve been in school, but in undergrad, I remember it meant food. It meant I was able to go eat. It just took a lot of stress off the whole process. I felt like I was being sustained, not just education wise, but also physically sustained.

In undergrad, I felt like I was a lot more responsible. I don’t know if that’s true, but I felt a lot more responsible. It really just meant by the time (in undergrad) my parents helped, they took on and assumed a lot of the responsibility for paying for my undergrad. And I vowed when I went to grad school that my parents wouldn’t have to pay for anything. So being able to apply for and get scholarships meant that I was able to do that, without relying on family members. So it was really important. It was a part of the whole package for getting not just my undergraduate degree, but my master’s as well.

TIFFANY SIMMONS:  Since I started working at the Doyon Foundation in May, you’ve always been a really big supporter of us over at the Foundation and scholarships, and we really appreciate that. I just have to chime in before I ask this next question and say thank you so much for making donating seem cool. We left a meeting and I was like wow, Sarah really made donating to the Doyon Foundation as something really cool to do. So thank you for that.

So, now you work for Doyon, Limited. Can you tell us about your role here?

SARAH OBED: Sure. Well, first of all, you’re welcome!

At Doyon, I’m the Senior Vice President of External Affairs, which really incorporates the shareholder communications, which we can always do a better job on. We have radio shows on KRFF, we have our website, our social media pages, and our newsletter, which is pretty widely read. I think we get the feedback that people like hearing about other shareholders and like hearing about our business. I also do a lot of the government relations component where I’m traveling to D.C. or to Juneau on behalf of Doyon, and that also includes our tribal relationship, our tribal government relationships, so I try to stay on top of all of the current affairs and keep others here at Doyon informed of what’s going on in the world.

TIFFANY SIMMONS:  Can you share with us why you choose to support the Doyon Foundation?

SARAH OBED:  Absolutely. I think the Doyon Foundation is a real gem in our community. If there’s one organization that supports students and supports the growth of our future shareholder base in terms of just having a really well-rounded, intellectual group of people who are curious about the world, it’s the Doyon Foundation. I actually served on the Doyon Foundation board; after I graduated undergrad, I wanted to be one of those people that give back. And I remember talking to a friend and she said, ‘Well, what does that mean, when you want to give back? What do you want to do?’ And it’s really my personal time, or my personal resources; I can contribute back. And sometimes people don’t have a lot of time to give, or sometimes people don’t have a lot of money to give, and so you just have to choose how you want to give back. And just receiving from the Doyon Foundation in a time of when I was in need and at a time when I was trying to personally grow through education for myself, the Doyon Foundation was there. And so if I could do that for others, for other students who want to grow, I would say the Doyon Foundation is a great way to do it.

TIFFANY SIMMONS:  Well thank you, we really appreciate it. What would you say to other people who might be considering supporting the Doyon Foundation’s work?

SARAH OBED: Oh, do it. It’s so easy. Just help them out. I know that there is a lot of activity up on campus where the Doyon Foundation is. You can donate your time but if not, it’s pretty easy to donate your dollars. So it’s no problem, just try it. Feels good.

TIFFANY SIMMONS:  Thank you. As a Doyon Foundation alumni, do you have any advice or encouraging words for students today?

SARAH OBED: Being in an institution, being in a Western institution, you know, those are not our traditional institutions, those are Western education centers, and they can challenge us, they can help us grow, but they don’t always have that authentic connection to who we are as Native people. And you just have to remember, I’m okay with that, I’m going to get everything I can from this organization, from this institution. I’m going to get my degree. I’m going to be challenged, I’m gonna allow myself to be challenged socially, intellectually, and I’m going to use it to grow. And I don’t have to accept what others out there in the world say about me or my people, I can draw a line, I can learn from it, but I don’t have to accept what others might have to say about who we are as a people. So, they’re not always our institutions, but you can still benefit from them, and I think that’s powerful in and of itself.

Hang in there, you can do it! Whether it’s voc-tech or an academic institution, just stay in, put your grit in and finish your degree, then you can come work for Doyon, Limited after that.

TIFFANY SIMMONS:  Wonderful, thank you so much for your time today, Sarah, and thank you for sharing your story with us.

SARAH OBED: Thanks, Tiffany. Appreciate it.

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