Karen Zeman

Executive Director

Karen Zeman Pic

When Karen moved to Alaska from Atlanta she made the mistake of wearing a business suit, heels and up-do to her interview (something the teens at Spirit of Youth relentlessly tease her about). She has since adapted to Alaska’s fashion trends and has become very involved in her community.

Karen has been the Executive Director at Spirit of Youth since 2008 and thoroughly enjoys working with our fabulous teens, staff, board and community partners. She previously worked for Boys & Girls Clubs of America where she oversaw their outcome measurement and program planning initiatives. She also managed programs related to youth financial literacy and job readiness and assisted local Boys & Girls Clubs to improve their services. Karen has worked with teens for more than 20 years and says she is constantly amazed by their dedication, creativity and caring.

Karen grew up in Wisconsin and attended Portland State University where she fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and Youth Development.


Rosey Robards

Director Alaska Teen Media Institute


Rosey Robards has been the Director at ATMI since November 2007. She says this is “the best job ever!” and we think she means it! She graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a degree in Journalism and Public Communications in May of 2005.

You might recognize Rosey’s name from publications such as the Anchorage Daily News, AK This Month and The Northern Light, where she was editor-in-chief for the 2003-2004 academic year. Her passion is writing feature stories, especially those that include music and art. She has experience in radio, photography, multimedia journalism and web design.


Erin Kirkland

Communications and Outreach

Erin joined the Spirit of Youth team in 2022 after more than a decade of travel journalism in Alaska.  Specializing in family travel, Erin’s website AKontheGO.com was the first and only platform dedicated to exploring Alaska with children, and she subsequently authored two travel guides under the title Alaska On the Go.

A lifelong believer in service, Erin has participated with numerous community and public organizations focusing on youth, the outdoors, and bettering Alaska for all who live, work, and play here.

Erin’s mantra is “Do good where you are, when you can, with what you have.” She and her husband James have two sons and are nearly empty-nesters.


Cari Zawodny

Teen Advisory Council Coordinator

Cari Zawodny is an adult facilitator and coordinator for Anchorage Youth Vote and the Spirit of Youth Teen Advisory Council. Her work with these programs helps ensure that Alaska’s young people are included, heard, and empowered. Talk with her about getting involved in the community, about youth voice, and why you are so important. She also enjoys conversations about big dogs and artsy stuff. Her motto? “Weird is just a side effect of being awesome.”