Not only was 20-year-old Alaska Native student Lauren Sophia Ashana Johnson chosen to represent Alaska for the 100 year anniversary of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. in April, she is a blossoming business mogul and strong voice for her people.
Lauren, who is a Bristol Bay Native Corporation and Chugach Alaska Corporation shareholder, is a sophomore at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She was chosen to represent her state by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) for her leadership abilities and community service.
Someday she’d like to follow in her father’s footsteps and become the director of the Nuuciq Spirit Camp, a place she has spent time since she was a toddler. She now interns there.
Her father, John Johnson, said the cultural camp is a place where youth learn the importance of subsistence and pride in their heritage. Lauren’s mother is from the Athabascan village of Nondalton, and her grandfather from this village has more than 70 grandchildren. Keeping her heritage alive is important to Lauren.
“[The camp] has a special place in my heart because it is where our elders and youth come together to sustain our heritage,” she told Indian Country Today Media Network. “My goal is to ensure that this special place is always there, not only for my children, but our children’s children.”
She’s currently working toward her bachelor’s in business management and when she graduates in May of 2014 she plans on pursuing a master’s in general management.
“Business is such a versatile concentration, I dream of developing my skills and knowledge so that I can work for the Native people of Alaska,” Lauren told ICTMN. “For me, school is not only an adventure, but a necessity.”
Her advice to other Native students, learn as much as you can and work as hard as you can to achieve your dreams.
“For students in high school, I would strongly recommend taking as many advanced classes as possible. College is expensive, and necessary. Take advantage of all the educational opportunities you can while it’s still free,” she told ICTMN. “When you get to college, you can test out of the lower level classes. This preparation has allowed me to complete my general education requirements quicker. Don’t take a break after high school. Keep working hard because you’d be surprised how quickly you forget things, which can be discouraging. Keep up the momentum, never give up, and the sky is the limit. We cannot rely on others to speak up for us. We make our own futures. Take responsibility and be a voice, not only for the well-being of yourself, but for your people.”