May 19, 2017

May 19, 2017

Seven ns awarded first-ever Teach for University of Alaska Presidential Scholarship

president surprises scholarship finalists during video meeting

FAIRBANKS — President Jim Johnsen awarded seven young ns with the first-ever Teach for University of Alaska Presidential Scholarship during a video conference with them today. The competitive scholarship, part of the university’s Drive the Change public awareness initiative, was open to all high school students planning to pursue a degree in education. Scholarship recipients hail from Angoon to Nome.

“These very talented and dedicated young people are the kind of students we want at our university,” Johnsen said, “and each demonstrates a strong desire to seek a career as a teacher and to nurture the next generation of young minds. Providing support and an educational path for University of Alaska’s future teachers is just one of the ways the university can continue to drive change in our state. We are honored to be able to support the higher education of not only one, but seven aspiring teachers as they pursue their career goals.”

The group of seven learned this week that they had been chosen as a finalist from a pool of 21 scholarship applicants, although it wasn’t until they convened for a video conference (video available here: from their hometowns with Johnsen that they learned each had been selected for the coveted four-year academic scholarship to study teaching at one of UA’s campuses.

“You will be the educators of the future and you will be the ones who help drive change for your generation in ,” Johnsen said in awarding the scholarships.

The winners are:

  • Rebecca “Becky” Polum of Kodiak—Polum currently works as an instructional paraprofessional at Main Elementary in Kodiak.
  • Bobbi Storms of Galena—Originally from Unalakleet, Storms is now a high school senior at Sidney Huntington School in Galena who says her own teachers have inspired her to pursue a degree in education.
  • Megan Contreras of Nome—Contreras expresses that she wants to be a teacher in order to give back to her community and work to improve high teacher and administrative turnover rate in small communities.
  • Amanda Friendshuh of Kenny Lake—Friendshuh says her experience with the teachers at her small, rural school has led her to understand and appreciate what it takes to be an educator.
  • Pancho Valladolid of Kodiak—Valladolid is a Marine veteran who wants to study teaching to help students in his community of Kodiak.
  • Kara James of Angoon—As an instructional paraprofessional in Angoon, James assists high needs and at-risk elementary students and wants to build her career as a teacher.
  • Eleanor “Ele” Ruchti of Galena—Described by her teachers as a “young leader,” Ruchti plans on pursuing a degree in education to one day teach in .

Between February and April, the applicants completed video submissions explaining why they plan to pursue a degree in education and what they hope to accomplish as a teacher. In the coming weeks, the will share additional information about the winners and their video stories via its Instagram page, @DriveChangeAK.

The Teach for University of Alaska Presidential Scholarships are funded from the Land Grant Trust Endowment, which allocates annual funding for the UA president’s discretionary scholarships.

The scholarship competition was a component of the ’s Drive Change campaign, a privately funded effort to drive positive change statewide by supporting postsecondary education and vocational training. ns are encouraged to support the campaign by joining the Change Force at .


Media contact:  Robbie Graham, , (907) 360-2416;