Q & A with Shareholder Employees

A Conversation with Lisa Akerelrea, Paralegal 1 for NANA Development Corporation

This is part of a series of interviews with NANA’s shareholder-employees.

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Lisa Tuuqpaq Akerelrea is a NANA shareholder with family ties to Noatak. She is a Paralegal 1 who began working for NANA companies in 2008. Photo by Craig Billingsley.

 

What is your Iñupiaq name?

Tuuqpaaq. I’m named after my great-grandmother, my mom’s aana (grandmother). I think it’s just a name; I don’t think it means anything. My father-in-law is Yup’ik. He told me that in Yup’ik Tuuqpaaq means to recoil or pull back—the motion after shooting a rifle.

Who is your family? Where did you grow up?

My mother was Pearl Arey and her mother is Mary Arey from Noatak. All my aunts and uncles are still in Noatak. My mother was the only one to move away.

My father is Max Todhunter. He grew up in Anchorage. His dad was in the military and moved up to Alaska in 1964, the year of the big earthquake. (The Good Friday earthquake had a magnitude of 9.2.)

My grandparents lived on the same street as us, but have since moved back to Ohio, to be closer to my great-grandmother who is in her 90s.

My husband is Jordan Akerelrea. We went to high school together, but we were only friends back then. He and my sister were best friends, and that’s how Jordan and I reconnected.

What are people surprised to learn about you?

People don’t realize that I have four kids. It still surprises me! Oliver is 12; Sophia, 9; Whitney, 5; and Emmett, 3. Our house is always loud and exciting. My kids are wild with really strong personalities. They get a lot of their humor from my husband.

Oliver’s the same height as me. I’m constantly telling him, “Stop growing. You’re still my baby!” His voice is changing. It squeaks and then it gets deep. Before that, people would confuse us on the phone. I’d answer and they’d say, “Hi Oliver. Is your mom home?” I guess I have the voice of a 10-year-old boy.

Where did you study or train?

I put off college, because I had babies, but when I became a paralegal intern, I went back to school. This past spring, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies from the University of Alaska Anchorage. I’m so happy!

My husband is awesome. He’s a major source of support. There’s no way it would have happened without him. He’s very patient.

The whole legal team was very supportive, especially during stressful times with finals, sick kids, and the height of annual meeting preparation.

Who has inspired you?

I have a huge list of people whom I think are great. To gain my admiration, all you need is a positive outlook, a strong head on your shoulders, and a passion for your profession. I looked up to my professors, practicing attorneys, who really want their students to succeed.

What was your first job?

When I turned 12, my neighbor quickly recruited me to babysit her kid. I held that job for four years. When I was 17, I worked at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. I was recruited to demonstrate Native games and I also led tours. Come to think of it, I think I’ve been recruited for all my jobs.

Did you participate in the Native Youth Olympics?

Yes, in the 10th and 11th grade, I did the one-hand reach and the Alaskan high kick. (In the one-hand reach, you balance all your weight on the palm of one hand and reach up with the free hand to touch a suspended ball. The Alaskan high kick is also a test of strength, balancing your weight on one hand and using the opposite leg to kick a suspended ball.)

Whew!

What was your first job at NANA?

I’d been a stay-at-home mom. To get me out of the house, my mom filled out an application for me. From 2008 to 2010, I worked at NMS in HR.

What did you do in HR?

It felt like everything! Recruiting, background checks, new hire processing.

When did you become a part of the legal department?

While at NMS, I was tabbed as a potential paralegal intern. I participated in an NMS mentorship program to help me understand the paralegal profession. I job shadowed Linda Adams (a Paralegal II). At the end of 2010, I became a paralegal intern for NANA Development Corporation. As of last January, I’m a Paralegal I.

What are your main job responsibilities?

A big part of my job involves planning for NANA’s annual shareholder meeting. The project starts in mid-August and goes until mid-March. We prepare all the documents for the shareholder packets, except for the annual report, which is done by the finance department along with communications.

The rest of the year, I support NANA’s attorneys, file reports, and keep corporate books organized.

What do you like best about working at NANA?

I love working for NANA! That’s probably why I’ve been here for almost 10 years. I’ve learned what it means to be a shareholder. I didn’t fully grasp it until I worked on the proxy materials. With NANA’s open enrollment, my kids are all shareholders too. NANA is a big family to me.

What is your vision of NANA in 10 or 20 years?

I don’t know yet. I still have a lot to learn about the business side.

What important lessons have you learned?

Communicate. Keep an open mind. And plan ahead.

What advice do you have for younger shareholders?

We live in a world where we get everything instantly. Be patient. Take one step at a time. What you want will happen if you work at it and keep taking those little steps. Just keep going. Take breaks when you need them, then push through.

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Lisa Akerelrea was interviewed by Carol Richards, Director of Brand Communications for NANA Development Corporation.