Former Scholarship Recipient Inspires Girls to Win On and Off the Court
Thursday, April 9, 2020

Applications for Sealaska’s scholarships close on April 15th!  A scholarship can be a tremendous source of support. Over the course of the next week, we’ll bring you stories of former scholarship recipients who are pursuing great careers and making a difference in our communities. For more information on scholarships and how to apply, go to the shareholder portal or Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Karli Brakes Sealaska scholarship recipient

From her first season playing basketball at age 8, Karli Brakes was hooked. Now she’s taking her lifelong love of the game and using it to help other young women identify their goals and chart positive futures.

Brakes, who is Tlingit Eagle of the Kaagwaantaan (Wolf) Clan, was a Sealaska scholarship recipient. She once excelled as a point guard in Juneau but after three years of collegiate play, she’s back in Alaska, coaching the Anchorage Christian Schools junior high girls team and serving as assistant to Head Coach Chad Dyson on the high school girls varsity team.

Brakes said she got her start in basketball because her parents pushed her to try everything Juneau had to offer as a kid — soccer, gymnastics, dance, swimming and more. But when she reached middle school, she decided to focus on just basketball and soccer, and her focus, hard work and natural talent paved the way to three years of college basketball play.

“For some reason, even though I’m one of the smallest girls, it just came a little more natural to me,” said Brakes, who cited her height at 5 feet 1.5 inches (she rounds up to 5 feet 2 inches on rosters).

Brakes describes herself as a traditional, old-school point guard — the kind who is on the floor to make plays and pass to their teammates, not necessarily to rack up points themselves. The mentality of putting team over self isn’t as common in what is now a flashier basketball era, but it does serve her well as coach.

Brakes was inspired by Dyson’s approach with the high school girls — asking them to identify goals for basketball and life, and pushing them to investigate schools and figure out how to reach their goals. In her own life, Brakes said, basketball and scholarship support enabled her to graduate debt-free and start her professional life on solid financial footing.

Brakes played at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington, for two years and earned an associate degree before moving to play at Lethbridge College in Lethbridge, Alberta.

Because she didn’t have Canadian citizenship, though, she was unable to work. And although her tuition was covered, she still needed money for living expenses and had few options for getting it. After a year, she returned to Alaska to finish her degree with a laser-like focus on balancing work and school. Basketball fell off the list of priorities as she worked two jobs and attended the University of Alaska Anchorage full-time to earn her bachelor’s degree in business management with a minor in economics in 2016.

After she got her current job as a public outreach coordinator for the Pebble Partnership, she finally had some free time on her hands and immediately started looking for an opportunity to renew her involvement with the sport she loves.

Although the first season was a “building season” for Brakes’ ACS junior high team, she’s excited about the possibility to help shape the lives of these young women.

“I’m really grateful to be participating in something that has molded my life,” Brakes said. “I hope I can make even the slightest impression on these young women, to help them see that they can be in any industry they want, or be involved in a controversial project that people aren’t always rooting for; and the bonds with your teammates you’ll carry for the rest of your life. If I can be any part of that, I feel like I’m giving back.”

Brakes said she wanted to encourage shareholders and descendants in high school or even earlier to take the time to look for scholarships and start thinking about their futures.

“It’s 100% worth it — every minute you put toward looking into the resources available to you,” she said. “Sealaska is a great opportunity for anyone looking to graduate and pursue their dreams without a lot of the setbacks a lot of people have to go through. It’s never too early to start planning when you have even the slightest idea what you want to do in life.”

Upcoming Deadline
April 15, 2020: Final deadline to submit all scholarship application materials

More information is available at the shareholder portal at and Sealaska Heritage Institute also has information on our scholarships and others, including the Preparing Indigenous Teachers and Administrators for Alaska Schools (PITAAS) program.

Did you know?

  • Since last year, part-time students are now eligible for scholarships.
  • Scholarships are awarded to students enrolled at vocational and technical schools, graduate schools, four-year colleges and other types of post-secondary programs.
  • Scholarships are funded by Sealaska and administered by Sealaska Heritage Institute.
  • Descendants are eligible to apply — not just shareholders.

Calling all former Sealaska scholarship recipients!
Are you a former scholarship recipient? Or do you know someone who is? We want to hear from you! Reach out at and let us know how education has shaped your journey. Be sure to include a photo!

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