Congrats to our 2023 Calista Corporation Shareholder Award Recipients

Shareholders Inspire Culture and Strength

May 17, 2023

Calista’s 2023 Shareholder Award Recipients from top left clockwise: Sheila Phillip, Calista Educator of the Year; Theresa Mike, Business of the Year; Mary Fitka, Elder of the Year; Michelle Macuar Sparck, Shareholder of the Year; Harrilyn Smith, Business of the Year; Sally Sampson, Educator of the Year; Nita Yurrliq Rearden (far left with family), Culture Bearer.

(Anchorage, Alaska) – Calista Corporation would like to honor the 2023 Shareholder Award recipients. Drawn from nominations submitted by fellow Shareholders, these awards recognize exceptional efforts by Shareholders and Descendants to uphold the cultural values of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Region and its communities.

“Our ancestors had to be resilient in all aspects of life. They taught us how to be self-sufficient and take care of our own,” says Willie Kasayulie, Calista Board Chair. “Our Award recipients exemplify the resilience we display as people from the Y-K Region.”

  • Calista Culture Bearer: Nita Yurrliq Rearden (Kotlik)

“We learn from our Elders, we learn from our mistakes. We learn from our stories, we learn from education,” says Nita Yurrliq Rearden. She is currently working with educators to develop cultural lessons for the Lower Yukon School District. Nita is helping them to revitalize the Yup’ik language and cultural values. Her first education began at home, where her grandparents and parents spoke to her all in Yup’ik, teaching her how to live by traditional Yup’ik values. She brings her cultural knowledge with her in everyday activities.

  • Axel C. Johnson Distinguished Shareholder: Michelle Macuar Sparck (Chevak)

Michelle Macaur Sparck has most recently worked as director of the Get Out the Native Vote initiative. She used her decades of political experience and Tribal relations to educate the public about redistricting, the new election system and the importance of voting. She works with Alaska Native organizations, Tribal leaders, and influencers to increase awareness and more successful plans to vote. Turnout increased in each election, and less mistakes were made in completing ballots.

  • Calista Elder of the Year: Mary Fitka (Marshall)

Mary Fitka of Marshall is an Elder nearing the 100-year milestone. She has always lived a subsistence lifestyle and still tries in her 90s. She is strong-willed through her traditional education and tells her family: “Keep your mind and body strong to keep moving forward. Always forgive people even if they mistreat you.”

  • Calista Youth/Educator of the Year: Sally Samson (Nunapitchuk)

Sally Samson is one of two named Calista’s Educator of the Year. Sally taught at Ayaprun Elitnaurvik for over 10 years and is currently an Assistant Professor for UAF at the Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel. Sally’s son was not able to go to Sunday school in Bethel because there was no high school-level teacher at the church—she volunteered so her son was able to attend. Sally has also volunteered at Ayaprun Elitnaurvik and currently tutors others who are seeking a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

  • Calista Youth/Educator of the Year: Sheila Phillip (Kongiganak)

Sheila Phillip is one of two named Calista’s Educator of the Year. She has been teaching for over 20 years. She currently teaches Yuuyaraq classes at Ayagina’ar Elitnaurvik, and often holds feasts for the community at her house in Kongiganak. She continues traditional activities of sewing, sharing, cutting and smoking fish, and speaking the Yup’ik language. “She cares so much and it shows. Since she was a young adult, I have seen her do everything for her kids [students],” says Ruth Kowalczewski of Kongiganak.

  • Raymond C. Christiansen Business of the Year: Theresa Mike (Kotlik)

Theresa Mike of Kotlik is one of two recognized for Business of the Year. She creates, sells and educates customers and those interested in learning about her Native art and jewelry at events like AFN, Elders and Youth Conference and the Midtown Craft Show. She was a first-time vendor at the Santa Fe Indian Market in 2022. “All is not possible without her faith, drive, commitment, and dedication as a strong self-starter,” says Jenay Mike, Theresa’s daughter. “She is looked up by many of her friends, other artists, and church community.”

  • Raymond C. Christiansen Business of the Year: Harrilyn Smith (Mekoryuk)

Harrilyn Smith is one of two recognized for Business of the Year. Harrilyn is CEO/Owner of AMB General Contractor LLC, based in Lacey, WA. She is originally from Mekoryuk and began her lifelong journey into carpentry through vocational school. She interned with one of Calista’s subsidiaries and has worked on building homes and businesses in Alaska and Oregon. While developing her small business, she won an innovation grant from her local county and secured small business counseling and training. “If you look for it, it’s there,” she says.

Award recipients receive an award plaque and financial reward. Recipients will also be honored on June 2 at the 49th Annual Meeting of Shareholders for their contributions in upholding our cultural values.

Calista Corporation has over 36,100 Shareholders and is the parent company of more than 30 subsidiaries in the following industries: defense contracting, construction, real estate, environmental services, natural resource development, marine transportation, oilfield services, and heavy equipment sales, service and rentals. Since 1994, Calista has provided more than $6.1 million in scholarships to its Shareholders and Descendants. Since inception, Calista has declared more than $124 million in dividends and distributions, including $10.2 million in Elders’ Benefit Program distributions to Shareholders. Calista can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.