CECI Mentorship Director Takes Students Under Her Wing

Ashley Johnson, Leaders from the Region

Storyknife, September/October 2020 edition

“My biggest challenge when I was going for my degree was homesickness, but I was able to overcome it with the support and encouragement from my family,” says Ashley Johnson, a Calista Shareholder who grew up between Bethel, Emmonak and Pitka’s Point.

Ashley Johnson is the Calista Education and Culture, Inc. (CECI) Mentorship Director for the Take Wing “Tengluni” Program. Ashley hopes to provide the same type of support and practical guidance to help students achieve their education goals.

“I was in their shoes, trying to decide how to pursue my education after high school. I want to tell them my story, how I overcame homesickness and put my education first,” Ashley says.

CECI partnered with the Alaska Humanities Forum and school districts in the YK Region to provide students with postsecondary opportunities to attain their education goals while staying connected to their Yup’ik culture.

A few of Ashley’s favorite traditional activities include subsistence hunting and fishing, along with traditional dancing with her families in Emmonak and Pitka’s Point.

“I was in their shoes, trying to decide how to pursue my education after high school. I want to tell them my story, how I overcame homesickness and put my education first.” – Ashley Johnson, Calista Shareholder and CECI Take Wing “Tengluni” Mentorship Director

As the Mentorship Director, Ashley will inform students of opportunities that match their interest, assist with research on specific programs, colleges, and trade schools, and help navigate the FAFSA, admissions, and scholarship applications.

“If a student has a goal to get a bachelor’s degree in science, then I want to be there for them,” Ashley says. “What they’re working on right now can be hard and stressful, but if they keep pushing for their educational goal, it will all be worth it in the end.”

There are currently 49 students in the Take Wing “Tengluni” program. Ashley will check-in with students monthly. Each student will review a mentorship plan established at the start of the program. The plan will track the student’s progress month-to-month. CECI is currently recruiting for a second Mentorship Director to provide even more one-on-one support for students.

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“One college application can be a very daunting task to complete, but once you’ve completed the first application, it should be much easier for the next. You will already have the documents ready,” Ashley says. “I had peers also completing college applications, and I had family to help me through the application process—something I hope to provide for our students.”


Calista Education and Culture, Inc. (CECI) was established in 1980 as an Alaska Native-owned 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization providing educational scholarships to Calista Corporation Shareholders and Descendants.

Recruitment for 50 new student immersion participants in Cohorts 3 & 4 begins February 1, 2021 and will be open to students currently in their junior year enrolled in the Kuspuk, Lower Kuskokwim, Lower Yukon and Yupiit School Districts. Students can apply to Take Wing “Tengluni” at: https://www.akhf.org/teng.