Tammy Ashley drinks a lot of coffee. With a full-time job, a busy family life and volunteer commitments that range from Girl Scouts to emergency medical response, it’s easy to see why. “I don’t really sleep,” she admits.
An original CIRI shareholder of Aleut and Inupiaq descent, Ashley currently lives in the same southwest Anchorage neighborhood in which she grew up. After a 14-year career with nonprofit Southcentral Foundation, she moved on to the Alaska Native Justice Center (ANJC) as its director of program operations last spring.
“When I was getting my master’s degree at Alaska Pacific University (APU), a lot of what I was working on were projects related to reducing recidivism (being rearrested for a similar offense after serving jail time),” Ashley said. “When an opportunity with the Justice Center became available, I jumped. I wanted to do something that I felt made a real difference in the community, and this was it.”
ANJC is a CIRI-founded nonprofit organization that provides legal advocacy, referral and support to Alaska Native and other Native American people involved with Alaska’s legal system. Alaska Native individuals face increasingly disproportionate rates of incarceration and other justice-related issues in Alaska. Through culturally-based advocacy, prevention and intervention initiatives, ANJC works to restore dignity, respect and humanity to all Alaska Native people.
ANJC recently became a subsidiary of another CIRI-affiliated nonprofit, Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC). “I’ve been working a lot with (CITC president and CEO) Gloria O’Neill and her leadership team, aiding the transition and putting strategic plans in place, specifically around grants,” Ashley said. “We’re looking at the processes we have and figuring out how to make them more streamlined and efficient.”
In addition to a Master of Business Administration degree from APU, Ashley holds a bachelor’s degree and two associate degrees. She was a member of the inaugural class of APU’s Alaska Native Executive Leadership Program, a graduate-level certificate program covering nine months of intensive study in the history, operation and challenges of managing Alaska Native corporations. But it was a vocational career that allowed her to work when her daughter was young. “When I was in my 20s, a grant from The CIRI Foundation enabled me to attend cosmetology school to become a nail technician, which I did when my daughter was in elementary school because I was able to work around her school schedule,” Ashley explained.
She also became a Girl Scout troop leader, which ignited her “passion for working with kids.”
“I got involved with Girl Scouts because my daughter wanted to join,” Ashley said. “I was involved with her troop, then my niece’s, then my cousin’s – Daisies (grades K-1) through Ambassadors (grades 11-12). When I was a troop leader, we focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and outdoor education activities with a hands-on, learning-by-doing emphasis. I wanted the girls to always be learning, even if they didn’t realize it. With the older girls, we worked on life skills – how to get a job, find an affordable apartment, pay bills and manage budgets. I would give them a menu and a budget and take them grocery shopping. And we did a lot of community service – three projects a year, chosen by the girls.”
In addition to serving as a troop leader and chaperone – and selling way more than her share of Girl Scout cookies – Ashley has served on the Girl Scouts of Alaska board of directors since 2012. Ashley has also served on the boards of Alaska Native Heritage Month and the Alaska Native Professional Association; as a committee member of ANCSA at 40; and as a CIRI Shareholder Participation Committee member. She has been an Emergency Trauma Technician since 2006, putting her training to work with both youth responder groups and at health fair vital check booths. And she somehow still finds time to otherwise volunteer in the community, from gathering items for distribution to the homeless, including homeless youth, to serving meals at Beans’ Café.
“Being a CIRI shareholder has absolutely impacted me,” Ashley said. “The CIRI Foundation supported me every single semester I was in school. Over the past 10 years, I’ve really connected with the Corporation through meetings. My brother’s son is 13 and he’s attended every Annual Meeting with me since he was 5. It’s really important that my family stays connected to its culture.”