Native student heads to Obama's last State of the Union speech

Lydia Doza. Photo from Facebook

President Barack Obama is delivering his final State of the Union address on Tuesday and a young Native student will get to witness it in person.

Lydia Doza, who is Alaska Native, is attending the speech as a special guest of First Lady Michelle Obama. She will sit in a viewing box at the U.S. Capitol with Mrs. Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett.

"It's like a dream come true," Doza told Alaska Dispatch News of her trip to Washington, D.C.

Lydia Doza, right, invited her fellow software engineering student Tanna McClure to Washington, D.C., for the State of the Union. Photo from Oregon Tech / Facebook

Doza, 24, is a student at the Oregon Institute of Technology, where she is a junior in the software engineering program. She hopes to land a job in the field when she graduates next year and got some key professional experience thanks to her own Native corporation -- she served as an intern at Sealaska last year. She is also interested in pursuing a master's degree, according to the White House.

In addition to studying and expanding her skills, Doza is sharing her love of science, technology, engineering and math with others. She accepted the Generation Indigenous challenge and is encouraging young Native Americans, especially girls, to become interested in STEM disciplines.

During her trip to D.C., Doza will be speaking about her efforts at a panel presentation, The Oregonian reported.

"I'm hoping to be able to bring new ideas back here to Oregon," Doza told the paper.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met with youth from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in June 2014. Photo from Center for Native American Youth / Facebook

Native youth have been a big focus for Obama in the final years of his administration. He launched the Generation Indigenous initiative after being inspired by young members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe during his historic visit to the reservation in June 2014.

As part of the effort, more than a thousand young American Indians and Alaska Natives traveled to the nation's capital last July for the historic White House Tribal Youth Gathering, where they heard from the First Lady, met with Cabinet officials and shared their successes and struggles with each other. Obama also shared the stage with Native youth during the White House Tribal Nations Conference last November.

"They deserve to be cared and loved and nurtured, and given a shot at opportunity," Obama said of Native youth. "And if we do our part, there’s no limit to what they can achieve, because they have extraordinary talent and extraordinary resilience."

A total of 23 guests will be in the First Lady's viewing box for the State of the Union. The White House said they were selected because they "represent who we are as Americans: inclusive and compassionate, innovative and courageous."

A vacant seat will represent victims of gun violence, another big issue for Obama and his administration.

Biographical information about Lydia Doza, provided by the White House, follows:
Lydia Doza (Klamath Falls, OR // Anchorage, AK)
College Student, STEM Advocate
Originally from Anchorage, Lydia Doza’s upbringing in three Alaskan tribes – Inupiaq, Tsimshian, and Haida – as well as her grandmother Joanne’s influence taught her the value of an education and the importance of mentorship. She discovered her passion for engineering early on through her high school robotics team, and, through her involvement with the Administration’s Generation Indigenous initiative to support Native American youth, she’s engaging with rural youth in disciplines across the STEM fields to apply their skills and education. Lydia, 24, is currently pursuing a degree in software engineering technology at Oregon Tech, where she’s also an event organizer for Engineering Ambassadors, which focuses on outreach to kids as young as three years old through high school to encourage a career in engineering. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, Lydia hopes to work full time as a software engineer while continuing her involvement in the community to promote the importance of STEM and higher education. Lydia ultimately hopes to pursue a master’s degree in data science and encourage more women to go into STEM. Lydia’s mother, Maria Graham, and two brothers, Dorien and Leland, live in Wasilla, Alaska.

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