Dolly Kvande, who was born and raised in Juneau by her parents, Ole E. Kvande and Katie Joseph, recently won the Experience Works Prime Time Awards for Alaska.
The program is part of Experience Works' national effort to raise awareness of the contributions made by older individuals and to break down barriers associated with the hiring of all older workers.
During her early working years, Kvande worked for 22 years in various seafood canneries and cold storages throughout Southeast Alaska. She then decided it was time for a career change. In 1982, Kvande went back to school in Sitka to get her general education degree and continue her education at the University of Alaska Southeast, as her long-term employment goal was to work for her regional Native corporation, Sealaska, in Juneau.
In Sitka, Kvande went to school for about two years learning to type, use the computer and take other business courses. She worked for the Sitka Council on Alcoholism and Other Drug Abuse while attending college and was a strong supporter for healthy lifestyles. She counseled many adults and youth regarding substance abuse. She also encouraged many people to go back to school and finish their education.
Kvande moved back to Juneau in 1988 and began school again at the University of Alaska Southeast. She is involved in Native dancing, oral history, beading, helping others with their regalia and encouraging others to stay in school or go back to school for better employment opportunities.
After moving back to Juneau, Kvande was hired to work at the Sealaska Heritage Foundation as the receptionist, assisting the finance officer. Her ability to understand the culture made Kvande an asset to the programs at the foundation. She was kind and considerate, and understood that elders were the most precious resources.
After a few years, Kvande applied and was hired by Sealaska Regional Corp. She retired in 1994, then returned to the workforce in 1999 at Juneau Alliance for the Mentally Ill, where she worked for four years before retiring again in 2002.
Due to the rising costs of daily living, Kvande sought services to update her computer software skills and to look for work at Southeast Regional Resource Center in Juneau. She studied hard for five months during the evenings, learning Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, the Internet, e-mail and keyboarding to improve her employment skills.
Kvande said the program that helped her was the Mature Alaskans Seeking Skills Training program, administered by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Employment Security Division. The intent of MASST is to place older individuals in community service positions and provide job training to help them become self-sufficient, provide much-needed support to organizations that benefit from increased civic engagement and strengthen the communities that are served by such organizations.
MASST helps Alaska retain the valuable resources of older workers while enabling this population to maintain an independent lifestyle and make meaningful contributions to their communities.
Kvande now works with MASST to help those less fortunate get referrals to training and understand that if they just update their skills, they can go back to work.
This month, Kvande will go to Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional representatives, tour the city's landmarks and receive an award at the banquet ceremony. All honorees will then have an opportunity to meet each other, share their stories and celebrate their accomplishments.
Rita Bowen is the statewide MASST program director. Susan Bus is the contact person for individuals or employers wanting to participate in the MASST program in Southeast Alaska. Contact Bus at SERRC at 586-5718.
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