Meet Sunrise Patterson, an environmental technician with Sealaska Environmental Services. From college scholarships to a professional internship to full time work, Sealaska has helped people like Sunrise develop careers in meaningful fields like environmental work.
Sunrise Patterson spent her childhood summers in Craig, Alaska. The rest of the year, she grew up in Puyallup, Washington attending Chief Leschi Schools. She remembers planting trees along the Puyallup River in sixth grade to keep the temperatures down for spawning salmon. It was here that she connected her Native heritage to a love of science and the environment.
Her passion of caring for the environment led to her college degree in biology. With help from Sealaska scholarships, she graduated from Tacoma Community College and Pacific Lutheran University. Now, caring for the environment is her job. She is an environmental technician with Sealaska Environmental Services, one of Sealaska’s businesses.
She got that job because of a phone call. She contacted Sealaska’s Seattle area office several months after she graduated, saying, “I’m a shareholder. I recently graduated, and I found out that you have an internship that I didn’t previously know about. I’m wondering if you have any jobs, or if there’s any reason I can’t do an internship after I graduate.”
Sunrise’s internship took her throughout Puget Sound and up to Adak, Alaska where she sampled well water for a few weeks in the summer. Immediately after the internship ended, she was hired on
Sunrise says the work of Sealaska Environmental Services is important because they hold people accountable for the damage they have done to the environment.
“I think Sealaska Environmental is here to stay, for one, because we’re good at what we do. There’s going to be clean-up work no matter what – you know, like some chemicals that weren’t considered a contaminant 10 years ago, they’re now finding don’t degrade,” she said. “There’s always going to be a career in environmental work.”
Ultimately, the profits of Sealaska Environmental Services and other Sealaska businesses go toward serving the Sealaska community. This includes funding cultural preservation. “That is my job – to make my company money – because my company will serve the Sealaska community which then in turn preserves the Alaska Native heritage,” she said. “It gives you a sense of purpose when you serve your own community.”
Sunrise is Tlingit, Eagle/Wolf, Yanyeidi Clan, Hít Tlein of the Taku people. Her Tlingit name is Saatleindu.oo.
From college scholarships to a professional internship to full time work, Sealaska has helped people like Sunrise develop careers in meaningful fields like environmental work.