CIRI seeks youth perspective on engaging next generation of shareholders

SPC Youth Representative Sena Crow keeping up with her school work during SPC meeting breaks.  Photo by Joel Irwin.
SPC Youth Representative Sena Crow keeping up with her school work during SPC meeting breaks. Photo by Joel Irwin.

At 16 years of age, Veronica Feldman has a busy life. Between rock climbing and trigonometry classes, she gives tours at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in her hometown of McMinnville, Ore. She’s considering a summer internship at Intel Corporation.

Just up the road in Tacoma, Wash., 17-year-old Sena Crow is just as concerned about time management. As a cross-country runner able to cover a 5k course in just over 23 minutes, she knows every second counts. Especially when she has to juggle being co captain of the high school cross-country running team with maintaining a 3.7 GPA, planning for college and a possible career in the film industry.

Despite the time commitments for Feldman and Crow, both traveled to Anchorage recently to take part in CIRI’s two-day Shareholder Participation Committee (SPC) meeting. This is the first year CIRI invited youth to become active members of the committees. For the two descendants, it was a chance to learn more about their Alaska Native heritage and their corporation.

“I have had limited opportunities to learn about CIRI because I live in the Lower 48.” Feldman said. “I would like to make the connection to kids living in the Lower 48, like me, and CIRI. I would also enjoy the opportunity to meet new people to teach me more about our culture.”

Making the connection between CIRI and the next generation of shareholders is precisely the reason CIRI invited youth to participate.

“The input we receive from the committees provides a good benchmark for CIRI to focus our communication efforts and ensure we’re fulfilling our mission,” said Sophie Minich, president and CEO of CIRI. “We are particularly excited to hear the perspective of young descendants. One of CIRI’s priorities is to improve the way we engage the next generation of shareholders and ensure CIRI is as relevant in their lives as it is in ours.”

While in Anchorage, the SPC members went on a tour of the Nat’uh Service Center where the Alaska Native Justice Center, The CIRI Foundation, Cook Inlet Tribal Council and Koahnic Broadcast Corporation are located. The tour helped members learn more about the services that CIRI nonprofit organizations provide including employment, education and other social and cultural enrichment services available to Alaska Native and American Indian people.

Communicating the value of these services to out-of-state shareholders, particularly youth, is often difficult. Crow said she has witnessed CIRI’s success being translated into scholarships for her aunt, cousins, and currently, her brother. However, she admits, it’s difficult to stay connected living outside Alaska.

“There has been little opportunity here in Washington for this much involvement in CIRI,” Crow said. “Being selected to serve as a youth representative for CIRI would enable me to help other Alaska Natives.”

“CIRI looks forward to receiving feedback and new ideas from the SPCs and the youth representatives,” Minich said. She encourages shareholders interested in joining the Shareholder Participation Committees to visit the CIRI website to learn more.

Sena Crow is the daughter of CIRI shareholder and former SPC member Thomas Crow. Veronica Feldman is the granddaughter of CIRI shareholder Mary Ann Mills.