Scholarship Recipient Connects Back to Her Alaska Native Roots from Southern California

Morgan Love is one of 359 students who were awarded Sealaska scholarships in 2019.

Did you know that approximately 1,000 Sealaska shareholders and their families live in California? This is a story about a young shareholder from Southern California on a journey to understand her own Native identity. And she is serving others as she navigates her way.

Introducing shareholder Morgan Love, a Sealaska scholarship recipient studying psychology and global health in her first year at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). Morgan has never been to Alaska but she grew up with stories from her grandmother Leonida Shaginaw — better known as “Nana Lee.”

“I owe a big thank you to my Nana Lee for passing our Tlingit ancestors’ stories down to me and my family. I try to share and nurture these stories through my school and work.”

So, how exactly does a young Tlingit leader share and nurture those stories? How does she deepen her own identity in Southern California?

When she was 14 years old, Morgan wanted to connect more with her indigenous roots so she and her mom contacted American Indian Health & Services in her hometown of Santa Barbara. Morgan offered to volunteer at this nonprofit community clinic, but they told her to hold on to her ambition until she could intern at 16. So, she did. She came back and started an internship by helping to file and organize the office. She also took care of the indigenous plants in the community garden on Friday afternoons.

Even though many of the clinic visitors are local people of Chumash background, the clinic serves Native people with roots in all parts of the country. The staff reflects that too, including Morgan who is of course, Alaska Native.

“The truth is that sometimes I have mixed feelings about my identity. On one hand, I wish I knew more people who are Tlingit outside of my immediate family members. That’s hard for me, so I’m working on it. But I’m also grateful for the knowledge I have of many indigenous cultures in California and all over the country. I have deep respect and appreciation for what happens when we all come together.”

After her internship, Morgan was hired to work as a part-time grants support specialist in the Community Wellness Department at the clinic. Last summer she worked to study and evaluate the needs of Native youth, including physical, mental and spiritual health.

Last summer Morgan also hosted her first GONA — a Gathering of Native Americans. Morgan helped plan and implement a five-day program for indigenous youth, Elders, counselors and other health specialists to come together. More than 50 people came to the event, exceeding all expectations.

“It was even better than I expected! I felt like everyone from the clinic really valued my voice and that means a lot,” said Morgan. She is already excited about putting her leadership skills to work by planning another GONA this coming summer.

When it came time for figuring out college expenses, her Nana Lee was there to help remind her about resources from Sealaska. Morgan has worked hard to secure financial aid, and right now is making it through her first year without any debt. And, she has a motivational message for others applying for scholarships.

“It can feel daunting to stay on top of all of the scholarship forms, including the paperwork for Sealaska, but I want everyone to just go for it!” said Morgan. “Make it your motivation to learn about your Native background as you do it.”

Now she is in her second quarter of her first year at UCLA, with plans to major in psychology and minor in global health. She is active in the American Indian Student Association and actually had a chance to make a new Tlingit friend with Sealaska shareholder descendant Danelle Kasnick.

“I love being at UCLA! I feel a sense of belonging here because I can meet other indigenous students, just like me,” said Morgan. “I still can’t believe I could finally meet a new Tlingit friend. But, like the clinic at home, it also feels amazing to know indigenous people from all over the world and feel our collective strength.”

So, what does Morgan see for her future? She is planning to work at the clinic again in the summers when she is home from school. After graduation, she hopes to work there full time before heading to graduate school. Either way, her experience in helping others and uncovering her own indigenous background is having a huge impact on how she wants to move in the world.

“I’m thinking more and more about how I can have a career in health and psychology so I can advocate for holistic health in underserved communities,” said Morgan.

Morgan is Tlingit/Raven from the Humpback Whale House. Her grandmother is Leonida Shaginaw, and her parents are Susan and Charlie Love. Morgan also has two siblings, Christian and Tanner.

Upcoming Deadline
March 1, 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 webmaster@sealaska.com and let us know how education has shaped your journey. Be sure to include a photo!

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