Second Annual CIRI C3 Experience Bigger and Better than Before

Twenty youth attended the second annual CIRI C3 Experience, held Aug. 12-15 in Anchorage and Chugiak, Alaska. Sweatshirt design by
Ainsley Fullmer. Photo by Darla Graham.

Whether delving into Alaska Native culture, preparing for college or figuring out what it takes to make it in the “real world,” participants at the second annual CIRI C3 Experience were eager to embrace it all.

Held Aug. 12-15 in Anchorage and at Birchwood Camp in Chugiak, Alaska, the CIRI C3 Experience is an overnight camp designed to foster leadership skills in CIRI shareholders and descendants ages 15 to 19, help prepare them for higher education and careers, and teach them about the rich and varied cultural heritage of CIRI’s Alaska Native shareholders. Campers came from cities and towns across Alaska—including Anchorage, Kotzebue, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and Unalakleet—and the Lower 48.

“Last year’s inaugural camp was so much fun, and we came away with some valuable lessons too,” said Darla Graham, senior manager, shareholder engagement. “This year, we were fortunate to be able to accommodate more campers—20 instead of 15—and we also expanded the camp from three days to four.

“There’s so much to do, from guest speakers and workshops to outdoor exploring and just getting to know one another,” Graham continued. “Having an extra day helped us not only incorporate some new activities, but also to delve deeper into some of the activities the campers said they’d wished they had more time for last year.”

Activities new to 2019 included:

  • Budget simulation. Campers engaged in a “Financial Reality” budgeting game/challenge that boosted their awareness of the real-life challenges of money management.
  • Career fair. Last year’s mini-mentoring sessions were expanded to allow campers more time to explore their career interests, which included time with career professionals who specialize in the areas of agriculture and botany, communications and marketing, law enforcement, teaching and video-game design, among others.
  • College admissions counseling. Amy Potter, an admissions counselor from Alaska Pacific University, shared tips for applying for college and finding the best higher-education fit based on personality, goals and interests.
  • Fresh salmon processing. Vicki Otte, director of the CIRI Golf Classic, took the campers through each step of processing a salmon, from cleaning and filleting to smoking and storing.
  • Nature hike. A representative from the Eagle River Nature Center and CIRI shareholder Tanisha Gleason, who works as a revenue analyst in CIRI’s Land and Resources department, led a nature hike and a discussion of company-owned lands. Afterward, representatives from Southcentral Foundation taught campers about the use of native plants for medicinal purposes and led a salve-making demonstration.
  • Opening and closing circles. “Sharing circles play a role in many indigenous cultures. They allow us to express ourselves while also fully experiencing the art of sharing and listening. In the opening circle, campers shared what they hoped to gain; during the closing circle, they reflected on what they had learned,” Graham explained.

C3 stands for culture, college and careers. These elements form the pillars of the annual camp and were the result of feedback received from young shareholders and descendants when asked what CIRI could do to better engage and support them. The feedback was provided in connection with a survey CIRI conducted on behalf of its Shareholder Participation Committee.

“This year’s CIRI C3 Experience provided ample opportunity for participants to immerse themselves in Alaska Native culture, hone their communication, relationship-building and teamwork skills, and make connections that will foster future involvement with their corporation,” said CIRI summer intern Aubrey Nay, whose four-week internship focused on preparations for the C3 camp. Aubrey also participated in the 2018 C3 Experience.

“The opportunity for Alaska Native youth to share their stories was such an important part of the C3 Experience,” said CIRI descendant Piper Tolbert, who assisted Story Works Alaska with its storytelling and college-essay workshops. “Sharing honest, first-person stories with one another builds connections and community, makes the space for people’s experiences to be recognized and cherished, and grounds us within our culture.”

Special thanks to summer interns Rachel Crosley, Ainsley Fullmer, Aubrey Nay, Jordyn Ransom and Piper Tolbert; CIRI staff and executives; representatives from CIRI-affiliated nonprofit organizations; and the many community members who donated their time and talents to the 2019 CIRI C3 Experience.

The deadline to apply for the 2020 CIRI C3 Experience is March 20, 2020. More information will be made available in the coming months and can be found at