Native Forward Scholars Fund - formerly known as American Indian Graduate Center
Angelique Albert, MBA
Chief Executive Officer
Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes
Angelique is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and has dedicated her professional career in service to tribal communities. As the Chief Executive Officer of Native Forward, she leads the Nation’s largest scholarship provider to Native students which has provided over $350 million in scholarships to students from over 500 Tribes in all 50 states. Under her leadership, she has significantly increased the revenue and net assets of the organization leading to greater impacts on Native scholars and Tribal communities.
She has over 25 years of experience as a Tribal leader in nonprofit, philanthropy, business, and government industries. Prior to her work at Native Forward, Angelique served as the Executive Director of Salish Kootenai College Foundation and Associate Director of the National American Indian Business Leaders Organization. Her roles in philanthropy, include the Lead Native American Program Officer for the Beaumont Foundation of America, and External Grant Reviewer for the Case Foundation. She has owned her own business and assisted in running various Tribal enterprises. Angelique’s early career began by serving her own Tribe as a Legal Intern, Court Appointed Special Advocate, and Chief Juvenile Probation Officer.
She currently serves as a member of the Obama Foundation’s MBK Alliance Advisory Council. Additionally, she serves as an executive officer on the board of the Southwest Association of American Indian Arts (SWAIA) and is an Advisory Member of Gonzaga Universities MBA-AIE Program. Angelique has a Bachelor of Arts in Human Services and a Master of Business Administration with a special emphasis in American Indian Entrepreneurship from Gonzaga University.
Chief Operating Officer
For the past 25 years, Jill has served to advance equity and justice through her work with both community-based service organizations and philanthropic entities. Jill is an experienced nonprofit leader with expertise in nonprofit financial management, program design and evaluation, and staff leadership development.
Prior to joining Native Forward as the Chief Operating Officer, Jill served in several executive leadership positions across a wide range of nonprofit organizations including a comprehensive services agency in Chicago, a multi-state refugee resettlement agency in New England, a national philanthropy support organization, a CDFI, and a state-wide advocacy organization in New Mexico. Jill holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from the University of Illinois with significant coursework in organizational psychology and clinical counseling from Adler University.
Chief of Staff
Erin joined the Native Forward staff in April of 2011 working with students in the GMS program. Constantly inspired by the students she worked with, she enjoys celebrating the successes of Native Forward and its students. Erin is now the Chief of Staff and is responsible for various projects, and processes and coordinating the CEO’s calendar and travel. Erin brings a background in customer service to Native Forward. She draws on this experience to lead the administrative team in providing support to staff.
Director of Scholarship Operations
As the Director of Scholarship Operations, Christa manages and directs all aspects of student services and financial aid operations. She also supervises Outreach, Academic Empowerment, Leadership, and Alumni relations programs for Native Forward and the Gates Millennium Scholars Program (GMSP). Her passions include developing innovative approaches to delivering programs and services to GMS Scholars, as well as assisting scholars with exploring positive educational experiences through program support, outreach, and advocacy.
Christa holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Criminology and a Master of Arts in Community and Regional Planning, both from the University of New Mexico. Christa is an active participant in the organization’s community outreach activities and represents Native Forward scholars on the Gates Millennium Scholars Advisory Council and Gates Foundation Domestic Scholarship Provider Partnership.
Michael Bates, M.Ed.
Scholarship Operations Manager
As Scholarship Operations Manager, Michael works with undergraduate, graduate, and professional students throughout the country and is responsible for the oversight of Native Forward scholarships. He assists with the scholarship application process, advises on scholarship requirements and responsibilities, and facilitates the resolution of academic and financial aid issues. Michael provides overall support for scholarships, programs, and outreach efforts.
Originally from Locust Grove, Oklahoma, Michael joined Native Forward in May of 2015. He was named a Gates Millennium Scholar in 2008. Michael holds a bachelor’s in science education and a Master’s in School Administration, both from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
Marveline Vallo Gabbard
Scholarship Operations Manager
As the Scholarship Operations Manager, Marveline is responsible for the oversight of Native Forward scholarships and fellowships for undergraduate and graduate-level students throughout the country. She assists with the application processes, responds to academic inquiries including financial aid issues, and assists with outreach efforts.
Marveline is from the Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico. She earned her Bachelor of University Studies from the University of New Mexico. She’s been with Native Forward since June 1998 and enjoys working with Native American students in pursuing their educational goals. Prior to joining Native Forward and where she began her higher education career, Marveline worked with the Pueblo of Acoma Higher Education Program.
Roanna Shebala, MFA
Scholarships Operations Manager
Diné and Zuni Pueblo
Roanna joined Native Forward in the fall of 2021 as a Scholarship Operations Manager. Throughout her career, she’s served in educational institutes ranging from recruitment, advising, and alumni relations. Roanna always aims to advocate and support Indigenous students in their educational endeavors. She has a B.S. in Theater from Northern Arizona University and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing with a concentration in Poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts. Originally from Fort Defiance, Arizona, Roanna enjoys a good cup of coffee, poetry slams, and time with family.
Scholarship Operations Assistant
Alshana Jake joined Native Forward in November 2020. She’s part of the Navajo Nation and grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Alshana is the first point of contact for Native Forward and a helper to other departments. She enjoys making and creating art through different mediums and spending time with her family and dogs.
Scholarship Operations Assistant
JT joined Native Forward in 2021 as a Scholarship Coordinator. JT most recently served as the sole mail controller for the Lovelace Health System for the last three years. He has an associate degree in Communication, Geography, Liberal Arts, and Integrated Studies from Central New Mexico Community College and is currently finishing a Business Management degree from Western Governors University. In his free time, JT enjoys traveling, cooking, board games with friends, and spending time with his spouse and three dogs.
Mentoring Program Manager
Arlin joined Native Forward in May 2021 as the Mentoring Program Manager. Prior to joining Native Forward, Arlin managed College Access and Success Programs in San Antonio, Texas, and Phoenix, Arizona. It is her position in non-profit community-based organizations that led to her passion for creating accessible college opportunities for students. Arlin enjoys breaking down the college-going processes into small achievable steps for students. Arlin is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation and earned her Bachelor of Arts from Fort Lewis College. She enjoys photography, hiking, and camping with her family.
Ambassador Program Manager
Oglala Sioux Tribe
As the Ambassador Program Manager for Native Forward, Nakina continues her advocacy and has experience working with promising Indigenous community leaders. She continues to be passionate, inspiring, and hopeful in managing a sacred space for prospective leaders to strengthen and empower their voices along with their stories by providing leadership and professional development for the next seven generations. Nakina is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe from Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and her Lakota name is Tate’ Cik’ala Win, which means Little Wind Woman.
Since the completion of her bachelor’s degree from Creighton University in 2002, she was committed to working in her community on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in a variety of professions such as state/Tribal child welfare programs, secondary/post-secondary education student advancement director, and served as an elected Tribal official for the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Throughout her career, Nakina has always been an advocate for future leaders, no matter the adversities or challenges they have faced ensuring the next generations are equipped with tools to face hardships from the past while making an impact on the future. She is currently enrolled at Oglala Lakota College seeking to obtain her master’s degree in Lakota Leadership and Management by June 2022.
Nakina and her spouse of 21 years, Tamatane I’atala share four adult stepchildren, an 11-year-old son, and a four-year-old daughter.
Dr. Yazmene Thomas
Director of Student Programming & Research
Dr. Yazmene joined Native Forward in July 2022 as the Director of Student Programming and Research. She comes to us with over 20 years of planning and program development experience in education, adult learning, and organizational leadership. Her career in education spans from kindergarten to college with experience in classrooms and training rooms nationally and abroad. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Stout, earning both a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and a Master of Arts in Education with an emphasis in multiculturalism, and was conferred with her doctorate in Educational Leadership Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Phoenix. Dr. Yazmene uses her passion and curiosity about other cultures to frame her lifelong work in the field of education.
Daryan Singer, MPS
Student Programming Manager
Daryan joined Native Forward in 2021 as the Mentoring Program and Research Specialist and has since been promoted to Student Programming Manager. Daryan’s experience includes over three years of student mentoring, public advocacy, and research. She continues to be highly motivated and invested in tribal communities’ current and uprising generations.
Originally from Shonto, Arizona, Daryan remains rooted in her traditional Navajo upbringing. She attended the University of Arizona, earning a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, and American Indian Studies, and obtained a Master of Professional Studies in Indigenous Governance with an emphasis on Indigenous education policy. In her free time, she enjoys sewing traditional wear, running, and spending time with family.
Sara LaBarge, M.S. Ed.
Director of Strategic Partnerships
Sara is passionate about equal access to higher education and has spent much of her professional career serving Native students to achieve their educational and career goals. As Director of Strategic Partnerships, she is responsible for the oversight of Native Forward’s fundraising strategy to support the organization’s long-term sustainability goals. To achieve this, Native Forward partners with the federal government, corporations, foundations, Tribes, and individuals to deliver transformational scholarship programs, culturally relevant student support services, and programming.
Prior to joining Native Forward, Sara worked at the College of Menominee Nation for several years as an academic advisor. During her time at CMN, she served on the college’s Institutional Effectiveness Council. Currently, she serves as Vice-Chair of the Colleges’ Board of Trustees. Sara is an enrolled member of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and was awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship administered by Native Foward in 2004. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Saint Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin in 2008. She also earned her Master of Science in Education degree in Higher Education Administration from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse in 2011.
In 2016, Sara was awarded National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s 40 under 40 for her work in education in Indian Country. She currently serves on the National Scholarship Providers Association New Member Welcome Committee and serves as a mentor.
In her spare time, she enjoys being with family, fishing, reading, and traveling. Sara brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the organization.
Major Gifts Officer
Brandon joined Native Forward in 2021 as a Major Gift Officer. His nonprofit experience includes working for a large organization as a Major Gift Officer, mentoring youth, and serving on the board of a local young professional organization. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of New Mexico. During his free time, Brandon enjoys photography, outdoor adventures, and trying new restaurants and coffee shops.
Brandon is part of the Strategic Partnership Team as a Major Gifts Officer. He is responsible for developing and implementing strategies for cultivation, solicitation, and stewardship of top new and existing donors. The funds received will provide support for the organization and mission.
Alumni Engagement Manager
Kiowa, Pawnee, Choctaw, and Navajo
As the Alumni Engagement Manager at Native Forward, Antonia is determined to identify, cultivate, and reinforce individual partnerships to expand the scope of financial support opportunities for Native students. Antonia is a citizen of the Kiowa Tribe with ancestry from the Pawnee, Navajo, and Choctaw Nations. She is actively involved in her tribal traditions, the Kiowa language revitalization program, and the traditional ceremonies in which she was raised. Antonia is loyal to the value of community and enthusiastically serves on the Indigenous Community Engagement Board for CS (Computer Science Indigenous Community of Learners United to Develop, Excel, Succeed) at The University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic Behavioral Health Advisory Council.
Prior to joining the Development Team under Strategic Partnerships, Antonia served as Coordinator of American Indian Programs and Services at The University of Oklahoma. In that role, she was an advisor to the American Indian Student Association and the AT&T Native Scholars Program where she implemented programmatic strategies that enhanced the visibility of tribal nations on campus, increased cultural competency in students, staff, and faculty, and led Indigenous student efforts in promoting their identity. Antonia also worked as a representative for the Cherokee Nation, where she helped implement and enforce the Indian Child Welfare Act in various state courts across the U.S. She attended the University of Oklahoma and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2015 and continues to create artwork while pursuing her mission in the advancement of Indigenous students.
The increasing need for sound cultural competency and effective communication in rapidly changing circumstances for Indigenous people has motivated Antonia to continue building individual strategies to improve her approach to professional and firsthand experiences. Through her work in multiple capacities and life experiences, she promotes a vision to elevate Indigenous people now and leave an impact for future generations. Antonia enjoys spending time with her partner Jay, creating art, speaking her language, traveling, and sharing space with family and friends.
Jessica is a UNC-Pembroke Alumnus, where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts in American Indian Studies and Criminal Justice. She resides in Lumberton, North Carolina with her husband Gregory and their three sons: Ethan, Nakoma, and Wyatt. Bullard has always had a passion to help others which is noticeable from her years of civic engagement in the community. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Pembroke Area Chamber of Commerce, and was formerly on the Robeson County Art Guild Advisory Board, and the Julian T. Pierce Memorial Committee.
Bullard has gained a wealth of knowledge with over 10 years of chairing and fundraising for events. She has discovered that a career in philanthropy, can be both rewarding and meaningful. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, fishing, camping, kayaking, the arts, traveling, and shopping. Bullard aspires to continue to support her community and tribe and aid it in any way to help it continue to grow.
Jessica’s most recent role was as a foundation director at a Higher Education Institution in North Carolina. She is a Lumbee Tribal member and comes to our organization ready to make meaningful contributions toward our vision of meeting the unmet need of every Native student.
Pueblo of Laguna & Mojave
As the Development Associate, Adriann provides clerical, administrative, and database support within the Development Team at Native Forward. She is from the Pueblo of Laguna and joined Native Forward in January 2018. She is currently working towards her Bachelor of Science in Earth & Planetary Science with a concentration in Physics at the University of New Mexico. Adriann is passionate about helping her Native American community, on and off the reservation, and is happy to be a part of Native Forward, helping Native American students reach for higher education.
Carrie joined Native Forward in July of 2022 and is responsible for supporting the Development Team. She has years of experience working for various nonprofits which included being a Program Director that served persons with disabilities. Carrie has dedicated her career to improving the quality of others and is thrilled to join Native Forward. She recently moved to New Mexico from Colorado and her hobbies include photography, poetry, and crafting.
Director of Marketing and Communications
For over 20 years, David has worked with Fortune 100 companies creating innovative marketing, branding, promotional, and event strategies in U.S. and international markets. Having worked with top-tier companies such as Apple, Lever, Paramount Pictures, and Walgreens. David has diverse knowledge and expertise in the evolving marketing landscape.
In his spare time, David travels internationally for music concerts, food, and art. His favorite hobbies include collecting vinyl, reading, and riding rollercoasters. In his spare time, he has volunteered as an advocate for children in foster care in Los Angeles, California, and with the state of New Mexico.
Marketing & Communications Specialist
Alyssa joined Native Forward in April 2022 and is responsible for content writing, editing, and managing social media while maintaining the organization’s mission. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of New Mexico. Prior to Native Forward, she worked as a digital content producer at a local news station. Alyssa served in the U.S. Navy working as an aviation structural mechanic on the Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler. Her favorite hobbies include sewing, birding, and watching Dateline.
Administrative Services Manager
Felicia is from the Pueblo of Acoma and joined Native Forward in 2019. She is the first person of contact and is responsible for answering calls and providing support to all departments. She loves being there to help staff and students. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and camping.
Elisa joined Native Forward in 2020 as a Controller. She has served as a nonprofit accountant in New Mexico for the last 12 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Colorado College and is currently pursuing her Master of Business Administration from the University of Southern New Hampshire. She enjoys running, crafts, and spending time with her three dogs.
Taylor was born in Ontario, Canada, and moved to the United States in 2003. He joined the Native Forward in 2021. Taylor’s responsibilities include accounts receivable, general ledger reporting, and assisting with audit procedures and state compliance. He attended Ohio State University: Fisher College of Business where he earned his bachelor’s in business administration specializing in accounting. An avid gamer, he enjoys both video and tabletop games in his free time.
Denise joined Native Forward in 2022 as an Accounting Assistant. She is from El Paso, Texas where she attended UTEP and earned a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Accounting and a minor in Computer Information Systems.
Denise loves to read anything from novels and plays, to comics and manga, as well as everything in between. When she doesn’t have her nose buried in a book, she can be found drawing, crocheting, watching films, or updating the wikipedia to her favorite series.
IT Support Specialist
Pueblo of Acoma
Nick joined Native Forward in November 2020 as the IT Support Specialist. He provides computer hardware, software, and user support to all employees and departments. Nick is from the Pueblo of Acoma, New Mexico. He earned his Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management with a concentration in Management Information Systems. Prior to working at Native Forward, he held roles as an IT Support Technician and Systems Admin. Nick looks forward to providing support and developing IT systems within Native Forward. When not working in the office, Nick enjoys tinkering with the latest tech, traveling the globe, and snowboarding.
Gabriel joined Native Forward in July 2022 as a Data Analyst. Previously, he managed a large scholarship program and the Salesforce database for a college access nonprofit and has experience in college admissions and financial aid at multiple universities in South Texas and Oklahoma. His past positions showed him, that even small scholarship awards can make a large difference in college affordability for students, and good data is vital in using scholarship funds to make the most impact in communities. He hopes to help Native Forward continue to thrive by contributing to a strong data foundation. Gabriel enjoys road trips with his wife, coffee, and restoring vintage computers.
Administrative Services Assistant
Jena joined Native Forward in 2021 as an Administrative Services Assistant. She has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New Mexico in Communicative Disorders and will be pursuing her Master of Arts in Communications from Eastern New Mexico University. Jena enjoys working out, reading, taking her dog on walks by the river, and spending time with her friends and family.
Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and Tohono O’odham
Wil is a citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and joined the Native Forward in 2022 as the Receptionist for the Administrative Services team. He will be graduating with his Bachelor of Arts in Native American Studies, with a minor in management, from the University of New Mexico in spring 2022. He will also be pursuing his Master of Arts in NAS this coming fall. In his free time, Wil is a hiruska singer and dancer and enjoys setting up at local powwows with his drum group. He also finds the time for the occasional hike and nature jaunt, or coffee shop and a book, when not hunting down the Albuquerque taco trucks.