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Helena (Lena) HoffmanHelena (Lena) Hoffman

Two Willamette Students Win Prestigious Udall Scholarships

Helena (Lena) Hoffman from Anchorage, AK, and Jenelle Woodlief from Coos Bay, OR, have been named recipients of the Morris K. Udall Scholarship, which honors Congressman Udall's legacy of public service. The Willamette University students are two of only 80 undergraduates nationwide to receive these scholarships awarded to outstanding students who have demonstrated the potential to influence issues relating to the environment or to Native American or Native Alaskans who study health care or tribal public policy. The Udall Scholarship provides cash awards of up to $5,000 per student.

Hoffman, a member of Alaska's Koyukon Athabascan tribe, is a sophomore at Willamette University in Salem, OR, with a double major in Spanish and anthropology. She works as a tutor for the University's Office of Multicultural Affairs and helped establish the Native American Club. She helped create a tutoring and mentoring program at Chemawa Indian School in Salem, which prepares Native American high school students for higher education by helping them research scholarship opportunities, preparing them for the ACT and SAT exams and organizing visits to various college campuses. Hoffman also recently participated in the Public Policy Leadership Conference at Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, which encourages minorities to pursue careers in public service.

"I'm very excited that all my hard work paid off," says Hoffman. "This scholarship will enable me to network with peers who share my career interests and allow me to participate in internships."

Hoffman, who plans to pursue a dual graduate degree in law and public policy, hopes to return to Alaska and work for one of the Native corporations. She is currently interning with a regional tribal organization at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks collecting information on culturally significant sites to be nominated for the National Register of Historic Places.

Jenelle Woodlief, a sophomore majoring in anthropology at Willamette University, has worked as a tireless activist for the environment, volunteering with the city of Salem and the Salem Watershed Council and educating elementary students about environmental problems. She's collected more than 1,000 signatures for the Clean Air Act and wilderness protections, organized phone banks, letter-writing campaigns and press conferences to bring awareness to environmental issues.

"I'm thrilled to receive such a prestigious award," says Woodlief. "The Udall Scholarship will enable me to focus on my career goals this summer."

Last summer, Woodlief worked for the Oregon and Washington Public Interest Research Group on the "America's Environment at Risk" campaign where she supervised an office of 50 canvassers and logged 100 hours a week fundraising and canvassing door-to-door. This semester, she is interning with Oregon State Senator Rick Metsger. After graduation, she hopes to work for a public interest or advocacy group raising community awareness about environmental issues.