NANA College Support Program: Laura Orenga de Gaffory

60541395860573Laura.jpgOf all the internships this past summer for NANA’s College Support Program, Laura Orenga de Gaffory may have had the most interesting. She was an events coordinator at NANA Development Corporation for the shareholder employment and development (SHED) program, or what she calls an “intern for the interns.”

Originally from Eagle River, Alaska Orenga de Gaffory recently graduated with a degree in sociology and Alaska Native studies at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. When she applied for the internship position she had never worked in event coordinating, but her personable nature fit perfectly to the job description.

“People would find the most interesting thing about my internship the amount of people I was in contact with, the amount of communications. I felt like their liaison. If they ever needed anything or needed advice, they could always come to me,” Orenga de Gaffory said.

Orenga de Gaffory says her family never had much to do with NANA before she was asked to do the internship. When she started the program, she felt like most other shareholder students and employees knew each other long before, making her the black sheep of the group. The relationships she soon created throughout the summer changed her viewpoint.

On top of building new contacts, Orenga de Gaffory learned how to work in a professional setting. She had never used Microsoft Office or had planned events. As president of her sociology club this past fall semester, she applied her planning skills to the club’s events. All tools she says now come naturally to her.

After all the experiences and relationships she built this summer, Orenga de Gaffory encourages more shareholders to get involved in the College Support Program. Realizing that a lot of students are afraid to leave Alaska, she still thinks they should take internships out-of-state.

“People need to step out of their comfort zone. It’s a great opportunity to explore and to meet people; and to take that back home and share that knowledge,” she said.

She also thinks that other students may not be as lucky as NANA shareholders.

The program “gives shareholders a chance to work in a certain setting. I noticed, especially at UAA, there aren’t a whole lot of internship programs. It’s great that shareholders have the opportunity and it gives them a chance to see what they want to do,” she said.

Orenga de Gaffory’s internship gave her a more positive outlook on graduation. 

The internship “makes me want to work more. It’s opened my eyes to look out there. Since I’m a sociology major, I was curious to know what I was going to do with this degree. I can see that there is so much more like HR, the SHED program and shareholder relations. It kind of opened up a whole can of worms; what I want to do when I grow up,” she said.

After Orenga de Gaffory finished her internship in August, she traveled for a while before she went back to school full-time this past fall. Her last semester in school was the first time in her adult life that she hasn’t had to work and study at the same time. During the summer she was able to receive enough grants and scholarships, as well as save work money, to get her through until graduation. 

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