GVEA Scholarship Recipients Radiate Energy

lightbulb with graduation cap

GVEA has announced 8 scholarship recipients for the upcoming 2023/2024 academic year. These accomplished Interior residents convey energetic and thoughtful approaches to academics, volunteerism, sports and other activities.

$16,000 Academic Degree Scholarship

Ayla Walker, Tri-Valley School

Photo by Tina's Treasured Memories

A recent graduate of Tri-Valley School, Ayla Walker has an impressive array of credentials. “Since kindergarten, I’ve always tried to be the best I can be and push my limits,” says Ayla.

She served as the president of the Denali Borough School District’s National Honor Society and was valedictorian of her graduating class.

With 20 college credits already earned, Ayla plans to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at University of Alaska Anchorage. Her career goal is to be a traveling nurse in the state.

“Growing up in a small community and traveling for sports, I’ve realized how limited health care is throughout rural Alaska,” she says.

She captained her soccer, volleyball and basketball teams. She also served as class president for multiple years as well as president of the student council as a senior.

Since sixth grade, Ayla has been involved in the Zero Landfill Ambassadors Program with Denali National Park and Preserve, a partnership intended to minimize the amount of park waste. She even worked to institute a recycling program at her school.

Ayla learned about volunteerism from her school and her hometown of McKinley Park Village.

“Growing up in a small community, I’ve gained such an appreciation of how important it is to be involved in the community,” says the scholar-athlete. “It helps to grow and strengthen a community.”

$3,500 Career & Technical Education Scholarship

Lori Ebel, University of Alaska Fairbanks Community & Technical College

Photo by Grace Wilson

For 23 years, Lori Ebel was busy mothering and homeschooling 2 sons, David and Jonathan, while her husband, Norbert, grew a respected and in-demand equipment repair business. Their flexible schedule gave the boys the freedom to accompany their father on jobs. She coordinated homeschool groups with fun activities, such as history parties, and taught advanced science.

“Our family has always been close, like peas in a pod,” says Lori.

Then tragedy struck. Norbert was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and died in February 2022. Lori’s mother had passed suddenly the previous October.

“I was bombing out with grief,” recollects Lori. “I lost both my best friends in one year.”

With the help of friends and an adept mechanic, they pulled together the family business. Her sons shifted gears with their academics to take University of Alaska Fairbanks Community & Technical College’s one-year diesel and heavy equipment mechanics certification program. Lori joined them.

With their certificates received, all 3 are back at UAF this fall with Lori working on a two-year degree in applied business, David finishing a bachelor’s degree in biological science and Jonathan pursuing general education.

“Our boys and I want to follow in his (Norbert’s) steps and continue his legacy,” Lori says. “Not only his excellence of work, but also his integrity and commitment.”

$3,500 Academic Scholarships

Jane Menard, Monroe Catholic High School

Photo by Grace Wilson

Jane Menard is headed to Saint Louis University in Missouri where she’ll major in health sciences on a pre-medical track.

Her “fierce focus and desire to learn” in the medical field began at 12 years old when her father was diagnosed with lymphoma. Jane witnessed his and others’ recoveries.

“I was so in awe of these health care workers and what they were doing,” she recollects.

In her junior year, Jane began online science and medical classes. She also tapped into the Health Occupations Students of America. Jane scored first in the state in a medical based knowledge test which designated her to represent Alaska at the HOSA International Leadership Conference.

Her graduating class’s valedictorian, Jane also received the Department of Science Award and Community Service Award for 300 hours of volunteering, and captained Monroe’s volleyball team.

During an internship at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, Jane was allowed to try the “Da Vinci machine,” a robotic surgical system. The experience ignited a spark in her to help rural areas have access to remote surgery.

“We want people to be able to live in villages with the security of health,” she says. “I do plan on returning to Alaska as a doctor.”

William “Will” Tomeo, IDEA Homeschool

Photo by David Tomeo

After 3 years at Tri-Valley High School, William “Will” Tomeo opted to enroll in the UAA’s Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program for his senior year. He recently graduated high school with 60 university credits.

Will soon starts as a sophomore at the University of Michigan pursuing a degree in nuclear engineering with an interest in fusion energy reactors.

In middle school, he became involved in the Denali Education Center’s Zero Landfill Ambassadors Program. As a volunteer, he encouraged people to recycle at the park and helped establish a program at school. The effort included making videos for school assemblies and collecting cans during lunch hours.

“It taught me a lot about having patience,” he says. “You have to wait to deal with a lot of bottlenecks and figure out how to overcome them.”

For a service project in the National Honor Society, Will incorporated his hobby of cooking. He created an educational website designed to “spread the art of cooking and healthy eating” for young people.

“I thought that I was in such a small bubble,” he reflects. “But I’ve come to find out that, even in a small-town Alaska environment, you can have access to great learning opportunities.”

Margaret “Maggie” Zaverl, Monroe Catholic High School

Photo by Kahli Lull, Lull Photography

Volunteering is important to Margaret “Maggie” Zaverl. “Growing up with someone who is so dedicated to service makes me realize how important it is,” she says about her mother’s work at the American Cancer Society. One of her most fulfilling experiences was at the Immaculate Conception Church Soup Kitchen.

Maggie ranked fifth academically in her graduating class at Monroe Catholic High School. About her positions of class secretary/treasurer in both junior and senior years, she observes, “I learned a lot about time management and organizational skills.”

“Basketball has been the biggest part of my life,” she says about the sport and being team captain. “It’s given me all of my best friends and a lot of meaningful experiences. I think that the culture has been impactful for me — there have been so many coaches that care about you and are willing to help.”

Maggie is excited to attend Pacific University in Oregon this fall where she will continue to play basketball. She is eyeing optometry as a career path.

“I am looking forward to breaking out and being on my own a little bit,” says Maggie. “But I want to come back to help make Fairbanks a better place."

$3,000 Continuing Education Scholarships

Dakota Keller, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Photo by Grace Wilson

Dakota Keller combines her 2 passions into her world views. “I live in both an arts creative mindset and a science structured one,” she says.

Dakota earned bachelor’s degrees with honors in environmental studies as well as fine arts from the University of Iowa. She’ll embark on a master’s in biological sciences with plans to focus on stream restoration.

Between academic pursuits, Dakota has worked as a seasonal science technician in hydrology, vegetation and bird surveys around the U.S.

“Every place I’ve worked, even though I’m temporary, I’ve tried to find different ways to connect to the community I’m living in,” she says.

She has volunteered for an urban garden, educated about prevention of tick-borne diseases and helped with riparian restoration.

Dakota has also been producing art, and showing it. She tends to use recycled and plant-based materials in her art.

“I feel the beautiful appeal of plants and animals,” she muses. “But I also understand why they are, and the way they are.”

“I am so excited about going back to school,” she says. “It’s nice being out of school for a while, figure out what you really want to do and then apply yourself with a good sense of direction.”

Drenen Magee, Crown College

Photo courtesy of Drenen Magee

Drenen Magee is focused on becoming a physician, probably in family medicine or pediatrics. Having just completed his junior year, he is a medical biology/health sciences major at Crown College in Minnesota.

Drenen split his time in Delta Junction High School and Delta/Greely Homeschool.

“Being homeschooled the way that I was, high school was very similar to college,” he says. “A lot of study is individually motivated.”

Co-captain of the basketball team, Drenen’s high school squad had an unprecedented win of the Dean Cummings Memorial Basketball Tournament. He was recruited to play basketball in college. After two years, he chose to concentrate on academics.

Last summer, a research internship at the University of Minnesota Medical School enabled Drenen to be the second author on a manuscript that has been submitted for review for publication. As an undergraduate, he is grateful for the opportunity to have an in-depth introduction to PhD-level research. Concurrently, Drenen had a fulfilling job as a direct care professional in a group home for people with disabilities.

“It may sound cliché, but I really love science and I really love helping people,” says Drenen. “Service is really important. It’s how I was raised—to do service for my church and community.”

Shayna Matson, Emory University

Photo by Charmaine Matson

Shayna Matson is pursuing a master’s degree in public health from Rollins School of Public Health and serves as a graduate research assistant at the Emory Prevention Research Center. She was a first-generation college student graduating magna cum laude from UAF with a bachelor’s in biological sciences.

At UAF, Shayna was exposed to One Health, a global interdisciplinary initiative that seeks to prevent, predict, detect, and respond to health threats. She now serves as treasurer of the Emory students for One Health, a campus association.

The One Health concept recognizes traditional knowledge that links the health and wellbeing of animals, people, and the environment.

“Historically, we haven’t appreciated Indigenous ways of knowledge, but it is very useful,” says Shayna.

Shayna has also earned an Infectious Disease Epidemiology Certificate. This summer, she’ll participate in a research project that examines neighborhoods in Atlanta with a high incidence of antimicrobial resistance.

After her academic studies, Shayna intends to move back to Alaska to conduct antimicrobial research and surveillance, including the impact of extreme weather events.

“My work has made me realize how many health disparities there are on a global scale,” says Shayna. “Especially in countries with infectious disease that are heavily affected by climate change.”