Leaders from the Region: Regina Therchik, Calista Intern at NASA

Regina Therchik, a Calista Corp. intern at NASA, stands near one of three WB-57 aircraft maintained by Yulista Tactical at Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.

by Calista Staff

As Regina Therchik traveled far from her home village of Toksook Bay for her education and career, she cherished moments that remind her of Yup’ik values.

“They apply anywhere in life,” she says. “I don’t think our Elders were ever wrong in giving us advice and telling us what to expect from our future. They are very wise, especially when they’ve lived in a world much different than our own.”

As a Shareholder, Regina is one of nearly 30 Calista Corporation interns who gathered valuable work experience around the country this summer.

Regina and fellow intern Leigh Ripke of Chefornak had a unique, high-profile opportunity. They worked with Yulista Tactical at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to support maintenance of NASA’s fixed-wing fleet.

Regina’s assignments included auditing training documents and material safety data sheets for industrial products, like lubricants and cleaners, used to maintain the aircraft.

“Our work has everything to do with maintaining the aircraft and making sure the employees are trained to do their work,” Regina says. “Nothing in space can run without quality control.”

Regina is preparing to graduate from the College of St. Benedict next spring with a bachelor’s degree in history. She is fluent in Yup’ik and studied Mandarin starting in boarding school at Mt. Edgecumbe High School. She also learned to speak some Hmong while studying in China.

“Learning languages is one of my favorite things—being fluent in Yup’ik has really helped me learn other languages,” she says.

While her studies have taken her to faraway places, Regina’s career aspiration is to study law, government, or a related field to help make positive changes in the YK Delta while working to preserve language and cultural values that she believes are at risk.

“Western life and culture are bogging down Native communities everywhere. I want to make sure none of our good things go away,” she says.

Before applying for graduate school, Regina is considering employment with a Yulista subsidiary in the Lower 48. Recruiters encourage Calista interns to apply for full-time jobs with Yulista after graduation, and the prospects for job openings appear very bright, Regina says.

“The fact that Calista wants to hire its interns and Shareholders is very reassuring for us. It’s nice having that support,” Regina says.

Regina believes the needs of young Shareholders and Descendants are greater than pursuing a college degree: she’d like to see culture camps that expand to include traditional winter activities, and training opportunities for students to learn about how government works and Native sovereignty.

In terms of Calista’s support to Shareholders, “The most beneficial is to emphasize our culture and language. When a group of people loses their language, they lose the cultural and traditional lifestyle,” Regina says.

She encourages fellow students to keep Yup’ik values in mind as they pursue their education and future careers. “No matter what you succeed in, it should be to help our people.”

This piece was originally published in the Calista Corporation publication Storyknife – Yaaruin.

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