Fishing is — and always has been — a big part of Gabrielle Shaawatgoox George-Frank’s life.
The recent Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé graduate remembers spending summers fishing with her father on the water that surrounds Angoon. Now, funds generated by the Golden North Salmon Derby will help her attend Dartmouth College.
“Going to a really good and competitive school can kinda give imposter syndrome like you’re not actually good enough, or smart enough,” she said. “But, the scholarship and the support I’ve gotten through the scholarship has really helped with that and help me that I am ready to Dartmouth.”
George-Frank, who is Alaska Native and whose family originates from Angoon, said those formative memories of her dad and fishing are what built her into the person she is today, and what led her to apply for this year’s Golden North Salmon Derby’s annual scholarship.
Since 1953, the Territorial Sportsmen Scholarship Foundation has put on the derby to fundraise money to provide scholarships to Juneau students who exemplify the same “outdoor and adventurous” qualities that the Territorial Sportsmen try to emulate themselves. The derby sells fish caught during the multi-day event and sends the funds to the Territorial Sportsmen Scholarship Foundation which then gives out the scholarships to the chosen recipient each year.
Now, decades after the event’s genesis, the derby has raised nearly $2 million and given scholarships to more than 300 Juneau high school and graduating students from Southeast Alaska. The scholarships are meant to help students further their education and use it to better the communities around them, said members of the event’s board.
For this year’s upcoming derby set to take place across Juneau waters Aug. 12-14, the funds raised will go toward George-Frank and four other graduating high school seniors and graduate studies students from Juneau who was awarded the scholarship to use toward their higher education.
For George-Frank, she is heading to Hanover, New Hampshire, to study at Dartmouth College, a private Ivy League with a mere 9% annual acceptance rate.
She plans to study psychology at Dartmouth and be on the pre-med track to eventually become a psychiatrist. She said the decision to follow this path came from her struggles with mental health growing up and how much of positive impact psychiatry and therapy had on her life, which inspired her to want to do the same for others.
She said fishing has always had a large impact on her life, especially from her father who used subsistence fishing as a means to provide for her family. Along with his influence and the influence of the lifestyle that her family leads as a part of the Alaska Native community, she said that led to her desire to want to protect nature and the environment.
George-Frank, who was also a player on the Juneau-Douglas Yadaa.at Kalé High School girls basketball team, said at basketball camps growing up people would ask her what school she wanted to go to she didn’t know what to say. But, one day when her mom mentioned Dartmouth College to her when she was around 9 or 10 years old she knew she found the one.
“My mom said it was a really great school with a lot of Native American support and so I said ‘OK, I want to go there,’ and it never really changed,” she said. “The more I learned about it, the more I wanted to go there.”
George-Frank said she will be leaving for Dartmouth at the end of August, and though she said she won’t be attending the derby this year as she plans to go fishing with her father in Angoon, Juneau residents can still support her and the other recipients while also simultaneously testing their fishing chops this weekend.
Shawn Hooton, the co-chair for the Salmon Derby, said as people prepare to enter the derby, organizers expect a good turnout in the competition this year and many prizes to be up for grabs.
“We’ve had a pretty good turnout over the last few years and have been very well backed by donations this year,” he said.
He said the event is expected to bring between 800 and 1,200 people, and the derby plans to give 50 contestants catching the largest salmon their choice of any one of the prizes after the first place prizes are given out. Along with the top 50, the person who catches the 76th top weight will receive a prize as well in celebration of the Salmon Derby’s 76th year hosting the event.
Hooton said there is one big change to the derby this year that people should be mindful of, and that is the relocation of the Auke Bay weigh station that has now been moved to Auke Nu Cove, which is located near the ferry terminal.
Also, after the success of last year’s team event pilot run, the derby will continue the competition, only instead of the number of fish, the competition will be based on the number of pounds of fish each boat brings in. Each team can have up to four members on one boat, and can simultaneously compete as individuals as well.
Know & Go
What: Golden North Salmon Derby
Where: A map of the tournament area is available online at https://www.goldennorthsalmonderby.com/. Weigh stations are at Auke Nu Cove, Amalga Harbor and Mike Pusich Douglas Harbor.
When: Aug. 12-Aug. 14. Scholarship and special prize pickup at Centennial Hall on Thursday, Aug. 18 Shoreside weigh-in times are 7:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday and Saturday and 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday. Cost: $50 for individual adult tickets and $10 for kids ages 6-12 years old, $100 team entry fee per person.
Cost: $50 for Individual adult tickets and $10 for kids ages 6-12 years old, $100 team entry fee per person.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.