Success Stories

Sharing is Caring

A photo of Kira Kira is pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts degree.

Partnership With Native American's American Indian Education Fund (AIEF) scholarship service supports American Indians, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiians in their post-secondary pursuits. Each year, AIEF receives 1000+ applications from all over the United States. Most of the funding is designated for undergraduate applicants, who we have been supporting since 1997. But in 2009, AIEF began supporting Indigenous students pursuing their graduate degree as well.

Last year, Kira applied to receive financial help with her first year pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre. She had just been accepted into the highly competitive and costly program (about $65k/year) at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee.i Kira belongs to and was raised in the Native Village of Unalakleet in Alaska. “It is a village of 750 people that thrive off the ocean and a river that boasts some of the best salmon fishing in the world. Whales, seals, bears, moose, and many other animals call this half-tundra, half forest-laden land their home, along with my family and many others.”

A map of the United States Unalakleet, AK is 3,600 miles away from Boston, MA.

AIEF doesn’t receive many Fine Art applications during the year, fewer even from pursuing graduate degrees and fewer even from a small Alaskan village. When Kira’s application was vetted by the AIEF Scholarship committee it was clear she had something special to offer.

According to her parents, Kira has been singing since as early as they can remember. Her aunt and uncle remind her about a long canoe ride they took her on to visit another relative's cabin about an hour and a half away.“I was only two years old…they say that the only way they could make me not miss my parents or be afraid on that long ride was to have me sing. Anytime I would stop singing I would get scared again, so they would make me sing some more.”

This canoe ride likely contributed to Kira's love for singing and how she handles being 3600 miles from home. Throughout her childhood, Kira was encouraged by her family and a music teacher that made sure she was involved in every way with singing in solos and choirs —“she (the teacher) was the one who really opened my eyes to the possibility of a performance career.”

A photo of Kira with her care package Kira's care package brings her some comfort as she gets her degree so far from home.

She reflected on growing up in the remote Alaskan village and her learning at Berklee:

“At the Boston Conservatory, a lot of dedicated learning is focused on how to share meaningful stories through performance. Studying musical theater, I realize that I am blessed with a unique wealth of stories and cultural values to share. One of the greatest values I was taught by my parents and the village elders was to share with others. From sharing the fish I catch, the animals I harvest, and the berries I gather, to sharing my home when someone needs a place to sleep, or even sharing my time with someone who needs it. I was taught that sharing is what keeps our community healthy. Through my performances and compositions, I hope to share with the world our beautiful and peaceful Native culture.”

Kira checked in with AIEF in her Fall 2019 semester after receiving her Welcome Care Package:

Thank you so so much for the care package and birthday card! It completely made my day when I received these. I can’t wait to use the items in the care package too! Your support and care means so much to me as a student who is so far from home and in such a rigorous program. I am encouraged and motivated to continue to work hard to get my Master’s degree! Quayannaqpaq (Thank you very much!)
-Kira E.

You can click here to watch Kira's performance of Change From A New Brain by William Finn.

Thank you for supporting Native American students like Kira!

i i Boston Conservatory at Berklee's highly selective master's program in musical theater is designed to enhance, refine, and elevate the performance skills of advanced contemporary musical theater artists. Our musical theater program is internationally recognized, consistently ranked among the best in the United States, and has been listed in Playbill’s "Big 10" most represented colleges on Broadway for three consecutive years. Working closely with distinguished faculty and leading guest artists in one of the nation’s most active theater cities, students receive rigorous and innovative training in acting, dance, voice, movement, and cultural literacy.

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