CIRI's Real Estate intern, CIRI shareholder and descendant Rochelle Hellmann.
CIRI’s Real Estate Intern, CIRI shareholder and descendant Rochelle Hellmann.

“I’m one of those people who isn’t great at interviewing,” CIRI shareholder and descendant Rochelle Hellman, of Anchorage, admits when she sits down to talk about her experience as the new CIRI Real Estate Intern. “The internship process has always been that shot I need to prove myself.”

Interning is nothing new for Rochelle. After the company she worked for went out of business, a flyer at the University of Alaska Anchorage inspired her to intern with Weidner Apartment Homes, where she learned the ins and outs of property management. Today, she has a bachelor’s of business administration in management, and she’s earned her real estate license, with support from The CIRI Foundation and Cook Inlet Tribal Council.

The 12-week real estate internship was designed to help a CIRI shareholder or descendant gain exposure to all facets of the real estate industry. Rochelle will complete nine phases during her internship, each of which will focus on a different aspect of real estate, from project planning to property acquisition, to leasing and management.

“I view real estate as an economic tool toward making a difference in the lives of Alaska Native people,” Rochelle explains. “That’s what gets me fired up: using this thing called real estate to really make a difference.”

Now in her seventh week, Rochelle has already worked with the CIRI real estate team, Cook Inlet Housing Authority (CIHA), RIM First People and Weldin Construction, among other businesses, to gain a broader perspective of the real estate field. Her favorite phase so far has involved working with CIHA, where she learned about financing and construction.

“I’m very good at the big picture, but I need people in my life to show me the details,” she says. “That’s what this internship has really done. Every day’s a crash course in construction, or architecture, or design. I didn’t know anything about architecture, but I worked with RIM First People, and now I know about the design process, the tools they use. I even had an opportunity to try to design a building.”

“We hope this internship provides a sneak peak into all facets of real estate development,” says Carel Nagata, CIRI real estate assets manager. “If Rochelle develops a career path that leads her to a career she truly loves and enjoys, even if it isn’t real estate, we will have achieved our goal of engaging the next generation of CIRI shareholders.”

“Engaged” is definitely one word to describe Rochelle; after her internship ends, she hopes to build her existing business, Inlet Pointe Cleaning Services, and eventually take on interns of her own.

“This experience has far exceeded any expectation I had,” Rochelle says. “Being able to pick the brains of CEOs, getting to work with all these great companies, having access to professionals who are eager to answer any question I have – not many people get that opportunity. An internship like this is really unparalleled in the industry.”

Rochelle is the daughter of CIRI shareholder Carla Hellmann (Dolchok), granddaughter of CIRI shareholder Maxim Dolchok and Elizabeth Dolchok of Bristol Bay. Rochelle was also a participant in Southcentral Foundation’s RAISE summer, winter, and graduate programs from the age of 14 to 19.