Applications for Sealaska’s scholarships close on April 15th! A scholarship can be a tremendous source of support. For more information on scholarships and how to apply, go to the shareholder portal MySealaska.com or Sealaska Heritage Institute.
How does a child from the small village of Angoon end up coaching college basketball all over the country?
It’s not a straight line, that’s for sure.
Jamestown is a Sealaska scholarship recipient who works as the assistant basketball coach at Western Oregon University. He also just recently completely his Masters of Business Administration with an emphasis on leadership.
Jamestown grew up playing basketball in the small village of Angoon in Southeast Alaska. Jamestown has a lot of fond memories of spending time with his mother’s side of the family and representing Angoon in the annual Gold Medal tournament. His grandmother, the village postmaster of 40-plus years, was a powerful force as were his fellow basketball players.
“It was amazing experience to grow up in a community that was always supportive of me, as an athlete and as a person. I get my drive from Angoon; that’s where my roots are, where I am loved unconditionally.”
When he was about 12 years old, Jamestown started dreaming of becoming a basketball coach one day, even more than becoming a star player. The way his coaches led his team left a great impression on Jamestown, especially Coach Kevin O’Brien in Angoon.
“The truth is that Coach O’Brien changed my life. I liked the way he coached us, and he helped me see that coaching is an amazing way to impact other people. I didn’t know how far I’d go as a player but I knew I wanted to help lead people because that’s what really matters.”
Despite the support of his friends and family, life was not always easy in Angoon. It was not unusual to go without power or heat, or deal with frozen pipes. And opportunities were limited. But these experiences of uncertainty helped prepare Jamestown for life, especially right now during the COVID-19 pandemic. And he hopes to pass this spirit down to his baby son.
“It feels good to take comfort in the memories and knowledge from my grandmother and others in the village. The little stuff adds up, the songs, how to hunt and fish, and I can’t wait to show my son.”
After attending high school in Anchorage, Jamestown jumped to Eastern Arizona College to play basketball and earn his associate’s degree. He had no idea the journey he was embarking on. He then transferred to William Jewell College in Missouri, where he played for two years and was nominated MVP by his teammates.
Next up he headed to Adams State University in Colorado where he finished his bachelor’s degree in psychology. His uncle was a coach there which opened up doors for Jamestown to continue his studies and work as a student assistant player development coach. Jordan grew into the role of development team head coach, helping to lead the team to two NCAA Division II tournament berths in 2014 and 2015.
After coaching stints at Great Falls College in Montana and Seminole State Junior College in Oklahoma, Jamestown landed at Western Oregon University where he also recently earned his MBA.
Through it all, Jamestown received Sealaska scholarships for which he is very grateful.
“Thank you, Sealaska! Knowing that there was funding for scholarships helped me set my goals high and stay open to new opportunities.”
Looking back on his journey so far, Jamestown says he had no idea as a child where his life might go.
“If someone told the 12-year-old version of me that I would become a coach and earn my MBA at the same time, I wouldn’t have believed them. No way! The thing is, basketball is just the medium—whatever you do in life, keep growing, keep trying to motivate yourself and others.”
Does Coach Jamestown have any advice for the younger ones?
“I just want the little ones to know this: whatever your vehicle is— basketball, music, theatre, soccer—use it to drive your education. School is where it’s at, no matter how old you are.”
As for the future, Jamestown would like to give back to communities in Southeast Alaska. But in the meantime, he is giving his all at Western Oregon University. He has learned enough over the years that you can’t plan everything in advance.
“You don’t have to worry about failing. You can always readjust, so that your dream can grow in a completely new direction. Don’t get too rigid with your own goals, be careful not to miss out.”
Side note: Like most of us, Jamestown is staying at home with his family during the pandemic. We had a chance to check in with him virtually, from his home in Monmouth, Oregon. His partner Rikki Lebya is a registered nurse, working on her masters in healthcare administration. A big thank you to Rikki for her efforts to help others during this time.
April 15, 2020: Final deadline to submit all scholarship application materials
More information is available at the shareholder portal at MySealaska.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how education has shaped your journey. Be sure to include a photo!