Spirit of Youth is working to improve behavioral health of Anchorage youth. Through community input and local data, we learned there is a direct link between poor mental health conditions and bullying. Our efforts focus on preventing bullying and its consequences, which includes poor mental health. Toward this end we provide training, efforts to improve policies, and build awareness around the issue.
From Kotlik to Kodiak, teens from across the state were honored for the good work they are doing in their communities at the 2018 Spirit of Youth Awards, which took place April 27 at the Anchorage Downtown Marriott.
The Spirit of Youth Awards is the organization’s premiere event, highlighting dedicated young people and unsung heroes from around Alaska. Now in its 20th year, the awards recognize the hard work and efforts of these future leaders who utilize this opportunity to share their inspiring and heartwarming stories.
Thank you to the Alaska Teen Media Institute for creating these radio stories!
Duncan Okitkun— Kotlik
Duncan shares his Yup’ik culture with the world every chance he gets. His songs and public speaking heals and strengthens people in his village. He performs at his school, instilling pride in his peers and is a great role model for the young people of his village.
Story By Aviva Hirsch, Spirit of Youth
Gabriel “Gabe” Miller—Ninilchik
Gabe decided to transfer to a larger school in order to pursue his passion for science. The move added three hours to his school day. Yet, he makes time, through Ninilchik Tribe Teen Center, to work with others to build clubs, programs and places for Ninilchik youth to go for peer support.
Story By Kendrick Whiteman, Bartlett High School
In a busy classroom, at lunchtime, Isaiah was the only person who observed a student choking on food. He was able to utilize his first aid/CPR skills and save a life.
Story By Aviva Hirsch, Spirit of Youth
Kaylynn participates in many community programs and activities despite recently having surgery for a brain tumor, which caused her to have to relearn much of her speech.
Story By Maile Kamohakula, King Tech High
Rafael is the owner and director of the Crepe Escape, a food booth in Kodiak. He donates 10 percent of Crepe Escape’s profits to the Brother Francis Shelter.
Story By Maile Kamohakula, King Tech High
Robert has served as a defense and prosecuting attorney with the Kodiak Teen Court. As a judge, he has mentored new youth attorneys and leads with integrity and honesty.
Story By Danielle DuClos, Dimond High School graduate
Robin “Puck” Van Dommelen—Anchorage
Puck has developed a keen interest in conservation of the environment and has lead projects on bird conservation, remediation of natural landscape, documenting and combating invasive species in Alaska. He also conducted an energy audit for his high school.
Story By Danielle DuClos, Dimond High School graduate
Rylee supported the Magic Yarn Project. She and a crew made wigs for children with cancer.
Story By Cornilius Nelson, Bartlett High School graduate
For this month’s show, Alaska Teen Media featured stories that ATMI youth producers did on Spirit of Youth award recipients, a review of a classic Orson Welles movie, and a story about disability. Plus things get weird for another edition of ATMI Raw.
Back in the ‘90s, Anchorage teen Marie Craig, now Marie Acemah, opened the Crooked Rascal, a small shop in downtown Anchorage. The store sold records and zines from across the U.S. It was also a community space aimed at fostering creativity—patrons could borrow a shared film camera, or sit down to write at a communal typewriter.In ‘98, she was honored for her entrepreneurship with a Spirit of Youth Award.
On November 5, Youth Vote and Story Works Alaska members Jasmine Carter, Olive Spohnholz-Johnson and Tuan Graziano attended the International Bullying Prevention Association Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.
In November, Alaska Teen Media Institute conducted a workshop on digital storytelling at the 64th annual Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) conference in downtown Anchorage. Student leaders from all across Alaska were in attendance.
KNBA youth health reporters created these two public service announcements about bullying behavior. Reporters worked with the Alaska Teen Media Institute staff throughout the summer of 2017 to produce online and broadcast features and public service announcements focused on promoting wellness to preventing teen suicide.
In this podcast series, Story Works Alaska and Alaska Teen Media Institute producers discuss bullying, why it happens, how it happens and what can be done to stop it. Each podcast features stories from a different perspective of bullying and its effects, both physical and psychological. Each story is true and told by an Alaska high school student at one of the many shows put on by Story Works Alaska.
As you’re listening, keep in mind that there are three classifications of bullying: 1.) It requires a real or perceived power imbalance 2.) It must be done with the intent to harm and 3.) It must be repeated or have the potential to be repeated.
Spirit of Youth Bullying Prevention Campaign Grants
Spirit of Youth is working to improve behavioral health of Anchorage youth. In 2014, Spirit of Youth began working in partnership with the Anchorage Collaborative Coalitions (ACC) on an in-depth community needs assessment to identify behavioral health issues in our city. Through community input and local data, we learned there is a direct link between poor mental health conditions and bullying. From this, the ACC decided to focus its efforts on preventing bullying and its consequences, which includes poor mental health. Our efforts toward this end include providing training, improving policies, and building awareness around the issue.
Bullying Prevention Campaign Grants are specifically intended to support youth led projects for middle and high school students that meet the following goals:
Promote respect and inclusion.
Increase the broad community awareness and concern of bullying and its serious consequences.
Use of the Careline
Reduced stigma among middle and high school youth about reporting bullying
Increase awareness among students, parents, teachers and ASD staff of what bullying is
Community members advocate for bullying prevention
Grant deadline: Friday, November 30th, 2017, by 5pm
One of the best ways to get a pulse on a community, is to step out in the streets and start asking questions. That’s just what Lynette Guanzon and Kendrick Whiteman have done as a part of their paid internship with the Alaska Teen Media Institute.
In journalism that pulse is called a vox pop or voice of the population. Through ATMI, Guanzon and Whiteman are using these tools to connect to their community and build skills in media.
Guanzon and Whiteman were brought on as paid interns through the Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s youth employment program. After applying and qualifying for the internship, both were interviewed for positions that were chosen for them based on a personality test. In June Guanzon and Whiteman joined ATMI’s ranks. For both students, this was an opportunity that couldn’t be found elsewhere,
“I wanted a job and I’m only 15,” says Guanzon, “and usually no one hires 15 year olds.”
For Whiteman, this isn’t his first job, but it’s nothing like his previous work experience. He’s enjoyed working with ATMI staff Robert Stormo and Rosey Robards, “Since the beginning of the internship, they’ve always been pretty like laidback and open-minded about most of the stuff. And it wasn’t really like a boss looking over your shoulder all the time, and telling you what to do.”
Whiteman has worked for his parents doing farmwork, and says of that job, “It was always like pretty, kind of rough. They’re always telling you what to do. Although that was my job, I wasn’t really free to do what I wanted, or how I wanted…so it’s kinda cool to do this for a change.”
Guanzon and Whiteman have been working on a number of smaller projects, but for both, their favorite work so far have been vox pops conducted in Downtown Anchorage. Guanzon collected responses to questions on social media, and the impact of usage,
“Older people didn’t really use social media,” Guanzon says, “and some of them are saying that they wanted to wean off of social media because of how negative it can be.”
Whiteman is currently working on editing a vox pop about drugs and crime in Anchorage, “I had people saying there should be stricter laws or stuff like that, or other people saying it’s like the fault of pharmacies and things like that,” Whiteman says, “I just got a bunch of different types of answers with different backgrounds and different perspectives on it.”
The vox pop has been a way for Whiteman to explore an important issue that impacts young Alaskans, “I used to live in a place like where drugs were a big issue, especially in school. So it was like something I’m kind of used to…it’s kind of shocking to see the same problem here in Anchorage…I don’t really have an experience with it personally, but I’ve seen it around my whole life.”
Guanzon and Whiteman will leave their internships with extensive experience in media production, as they continue to put learned knowledge to practical use and freely explore what matters most to them.
The Spirit of Youth annual report is now available online. Read about Spirit of Youth’s many accomplishments over the last year including new community partnerships across the state of Alaska. The annual report also includes information on the 2017 Spirit of Youth Award Recipients, highlights from the Alaska Teen Media Institute and a message from the Board President. A financial summary can also be found in the document.
Homer’s Haven House is a shelter that offers a safe space for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, and provides vital support to families in need. Several years ago, the organization’s director noticed that the children’s room at the shelter had become neglected. One 12 year old decided to make a difference.
Aviva Hirsch grew up in Homer, and had always believed in giving back to her community. Upon coming of age when she turned 12, Hirsch was given the chance to complete a service project as part of her Bat Mitzvah ceremony and decided to help improve the children’s room at Haven House,
“This was my service project to be in the shelter and play with kids and help that place seem inviting for young people in a kind of a scary, unpredictable time,” Hirsch says, “I felt connected to the women’s shelter in Homer because it was a place that we had gone and donated cookies mainly, or clothes, but then also we had this tradition of bringing jewish cookies to the shelter.”
That year, Hirsch was nominated by her project supervisor and eventually received a Spirit of Youth Award for her hard work, “It feels really awesome to be recognized when you’re working on a project because I think, for me, as a young person, I had no idea about awards that you could get or just the whole idea of being recognized…It felt really empowering, and the impact was broadened because more people knew about what I was doing, and they could maybe be inspired to do projects or just learn about what was going on and how it was benefiting our community in Homer.”
A couple years later, Hirsch moved to Anchorage and got involved with the Alaska Teen Media Institute,
“I think one of the things I really became excited about at ATMI was storytelling and radio and the capacity of radio and how unique radio is in terms of being a platform to stimulate ideas and really engage listeners in a way that other forms of media don’t.”
Now, a decade after receiving her award, Hirsch continues to carry her experiences at Spirit of Youth with her as she begins tackling new projects. Most recently, Hirsch started a radio show called AKNamaste, which features interviews with yoga instructors in the Anchorage community, inspiring yoga music, and short yoga practices led by the instructors on air. She hopes that the show can become syndicated in the future.
“Spirit of Youth definitely gave me a lot of skills and empowerment,” Hirsch says, “Being a part of the Spirit of Youth awards ceremony was also very—I think it’s really empowering for young people like myself to be amongst other people creating really neat projects around Alaska in different places, and connecting to those people and hearing their stories.”
AKNamaste airs Sunday mornings at 8am on KNBA 90.3 FM.
Become part of a group of caring individuals whose efforts champion Alaska’s youth. Spirit of Youth has set a goal to raise $7,500 by the end of our fiscal year June 30th. Any size of donation is greatly appreciated.
Donors who give $200 or more between now and June 30th will be recognized on the Spirit of Youth radio series aired in communities across Alaska.
Our programs motivate youth to work harder to achieve their goals. Youth feel more valued by their community and have an increased interest in helping others.
Please support this positive effort today. Donations can be made online here.
Anchorage, Alaska (March 13, 2017)- 16 teens and youth groups from communities across the state of Alaska to be recognized at the 19th Annual Spirit of Youth Awards
The Spirit of Youth Awards highlights dedicated young people and unsung heroes from around Alaska. Now in its 19th year, the awards recognize the hard work and efforts of these future leaders who use this opportunity to share their inspiring and heart-warming stories. Recipients were chosen by the Spirit of Youth Teen Advisory Council. Individual recipients will receive a college savings scholarship account from the University of Alaska College Savings Plan, while groups selected will receive a grant.
This year Spirit of Youth is partnering with the Alaska Postsecondary Access & Completion Network for their awards event. The Network works to increase the percentage of all Alaskans who complete postsecondary education. The Spirit of Youth Awards will join their annual “Alaska CAN” conference expanding both organization’s reach and impact. To learn more or register for the conference visit their website.
The Spirit of Awards will be held on Thursday March 23, 2017. The reception will start at 6pm, with the awards ceremony beginning at 7pm. Tickets can be purchased at spiritofyouth.org.
Anchorage Marriott Hotel, 820 W. 7th Avenue, Anchorage, AK, 99577
Individuals and groups to be honored by category:
The Phoenix Award celebrates youth who rise with new life like a phoenix and display exceptional determination and stamina as they overcome significant life challenges.
Denali Schultz (Soldotna) volunteers often, and joined the Native Youth Leadership team in Kenai. Working two jobs and overcoming a number of personal challenges, Denali continues to give back to her community.
Runner-Up: Samir Akal (Anchorage) lives with diabetes, and hopes to help others combat the disease by working towards becoming a nurse. He has volunteered at Providence Hospital, and tutors other Somali speaking students in math.
The Dreamer Award recognizes teens who are actively engaging in their community through the preservation of cultural practices and arts, those who share personal expression through visual or performing arts, and those who cultivate youth voice through media and digital art forms.
Maiya Anderson (Kenai) has started a piano lesson program at the senior center in Kenai. The lessons bring joy to the elders in the community, while also helping to bridge a generational divide.
Runner-Up: Alyssa Madrid (Kodiak) has been a member of Kodiak Island’s Alutiiq Dancers since 2011 and is now training to become a lead drummer and song caller. Alyssa has also served as a youth ambassador for the Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance, and currently acts as the Cultural Programs Assistant for the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak.
The Humanitarian Award recognizes youth who have put forth efforts to make their community a better place or are active in local or state government.
Kaulani Napoleon (Eagle River) organized a donation drive aimed at collecting school supplies for refugee youth in the community. At the end of three months, Kaulani had collected hundreds of school supplies from people across the country.
Runner-Up: Jivan Gordon-Wolfe (Fairbanks) has led a Make A Difference Day project in October every year for the past 4 years. He has also been involved with the Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance Youth leaders program.
The Visionary Award recognizes youth who have turned their creativity and knowledge into an economic venture.
Savannah Rizzo (Kenai) has worked to establish an organization called T-Books, which provides new books to disadvantaged youth in her community. Savannah is working hard to inspire youth, and reduce poverty by promoting literacy.
Runner-Up: Haley Edmondson (Anchorage) is an active leader of her community. Her achievements include raising money for breast cancer research, planning quarterly blood and canned food drives, and organizing bonding activities with life skills students.
The Lifesaver Award celebrates youth who have gone above and beyond “the call of duty” by preventing injuries and illness and saving lives.
Kaisa Reese Ahluniq Kotch (Kotzebue) is devoted to combating suicide in her community. Kaisa is a member of the TECK Youth Leader’s Program, which trains youth in bullying and suicide prevention. She also serves in the Maniilaq Behavioral Health Program.
Runner-Up: Jackson Blackwell (Soldotna) has been involved in Teens Against Tobacco Use for the past 4 years. He has given tobacco prevention lessons to his peers, and has also testified to the Alaska State Legislature on the importance of a smoke-free workplace.
Role Model Award
Teens nominated for the Role-Model Award lend a helping hand to peers and younger youth in their community.
Shaela Asbury (Palmer) has created, organized and directed Agents for Change, a youth-led initiative at Colony Middle School designed to study and raise awareness about local and global issues where children face adversity and crisis. Agents for Change members fundraise for organizations that support children.
Runner-Up: Tasha Elizarde (Juneau) works as a Peer Educator with the Juneau Teen Council, which focuses on teaching teens about healthy sexuality and healthy relationships. Tasha presented a workshop at the 2016 Teen Council Summit in Washington DC, and exhibits exceptional skills in leadership, writing, and advocacy.
The Innovator Award shines the spotlight on the efforts of youth who have shown excellence in the fields of math, science and engineering through research, study, or improvement in their community.
Quantum Mechanics FTC Robotics (Eagle River) is a rookie, community-based robotics team for the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC). The members of The Quantum Mechanics team are highly motivated boy scouts that are working to expand STEM activities to all youth, including those with challenges.
Runner-Up: Fairbanks Skate Park Coalition (Fairbanks) was formed in April 2016 by a group of young skateboarders, BMX bikers and other action sport riders who want to create safe, fun skate parks in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Since that time, they have gained non-profit status, and assisted in designing and refurbishing the North Pole Skate Park.
Discovery Award The Discovery Award highlights accomplishments made by youth in environmental advocacy projects and technology ventures.
Jedediah Dean (Palmer) has been conducting independent research to determine whether radiation levels have been rising on the beaches of Prince William Sound as a result of the 2011 nuclear disaster at Fukushima. Jedediah’s work has won state and international awards.
Runner-Up: Port Graham High School students (Port Graham) spearheaded a project to raise rabbits that would eventually be used for skin-sewing and tanning hides. The students used hands-on experience to build scientific and traditional skills.
Sponsors of the Spirit of Youth Awards include: Enstar, Atwood Foundation BP, Mat-Su Health Foundation, the UA College Savings Plan and the Nick Begich Scholarship Intern Fund.
Samir Akal came to Anchorage two years ago after leaving a refugee camp in Egypt. Going above and beyond what was required of him, Samir has achieved a high level of academic success. But his hard work has not stopped there. Living with diabetes himself, Samir hopes to help others combat the disease by working towards becoming a nurse. He has volunteered at Providence Hospital, tutored other Somali speaking students in math, and spent this most recent summer volunteering at the Mountain View Public Library.
Award Category – Phoenix
Alyssa Madrid – Kodiak
Alyssa Madrid has been a member of Kodiak Island’s Alutiiq Dancers since 2011, and is now training to become a leader drummer and song caller. Alyssa has also served as a youth ambassador for the Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance, and currently acts as the Cultural Programs Assistant for the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak.
Award Category – Dreamer
Jivan Gordon-Wolfe – Fairbanks
Jivan has led a Make A Difference Day project in October every year for the past 4 years. He has also been involved with the Alaska Tobacco Control Alliance Youth leaders program for over a year, and has attended two trainings in Anchorage on tobacco education, prevention, and advocacy topics. Jivan has worked and volunteered for Green Star, and raised awareness of plastic bag waste.
Award Category – Humanitarian
Haley Edmondson – Anchorage
Haley Edmondson is an active member of her community and volunteers her time to better the lives of those in her community, particularly other youth. Her achievements include hosting a fashion show to raise money for Breast Cancer research, raising over $4,000 for the Children’s Hospital, helping to create a nationally recognized “Raise Your Voice” video with the Alaska Injury Prevention Center, and organizing bonding activities with life skills students attending South Anchorage High School.
Award Category – Visionary
Jackson Blackwell – Soldotna
Jackson has been involved in Teens Against Tobacco Use for the past 4 years. He has given tobacco prevention lessons to his peers, and has also testified to the Alaska state legislature on the importance of a smoke-free workplace.
Award Category – Lifesaver
Tasha Elizarde – Juneau
Tasha Elizarde works as a Peer Educator with the Juneau Teen Council, which focuses on teaching teens about healthy sexuality and healthy relationships. Tasha attended the 2016 Teen Council Summit in Washington DC and co-presented a workshop about youth involvement in advocacy efforts. After the summit, Tasha was invited to write an article for an MTV news blog. Tasha exhibits exceptional skills in leadership, writing, and advocacy.
Award Category – Role Model
Fairbanks Skate Park Coalition – Fairbanks
Fairbanks Skate Park Coalition was formed in April 2016 by a group of young skateboarders, BMX bikers and other action sport riders who want to create safe, fun skate parks in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Since that time, they have gained non-profit status, assisted in designing and refurbishing the North Pole Skate Park and then hosted a grand opening and competition. They have started working with our Borough and Parks and Rec department to get a new skate park built in Fairbanks to replace the 20 year old park that has become unsafe.
Award Category – Innovator
Port Graham High School – Port Graham
8th through 12th grade students in Port Graham spearheaded a project to raise rabbits that would eventually be used for skin-sewing and tanning hides. The students were involved in the process from beginning to end and used hands-on experience to build scientific and traditional skills. The rabbits were raised and treated with the utmost care and respect.
Youth from across the state of Alaska will be honored for their hard work and contributions to the community at the Spirit of Youth Awards, March 23, 6pm at the Anchorage Marriott Hotel. Purchase your tickets here, and join us in celebration of the 2017 Spirit of Youth Award recipients!
This year Spirit of Youth is partnering with the Alaska Postsecondary Access & Completion Network for our awards event. The Network works to increase the percentage of all Alaskans who complete postsecondary education. The Spirit of Youth Awards will join their annual “Alaska CAN” conference expanding both organization’s reach and impact. To learn more or register for the conference visit their website.
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Way back in the ‘90s, during the era of Alanis Morissette, Dawson’s Creek and fruit by the foot, Anchorage teen Marie Acemah opened the Crooked Rascal, a small shop nestled on the third floor of the 4th Avenue Theatre.
The shop shared its quirky name with a zine (short for magazine) created and produced by Acemah. Selling records, and zines from across the U.S., the Crooked Rascal was more than just a store—it was also a community space aimed at fostering creativity. Patrons of the Crooked Rascal could borrow a shared film camera, or sit down to write at a communal typewriter.
In 1998, Acemah was honored for her entrepreneurship with a Spirit of Youth Award, and as a true rebel of the ’90s, Acemah delivered an anti-corporate acceptance speech in the form of a sonnet. Although Acemah had never heard of the organization prior to her nomination, being honored was an invaluable experience that she continues to carry with her.
Today, Acemah runs a digital storytelling business called See Stories, which works with teens in Kodiak and around the state,
“I just feel extremely blessed to do the work I do,” Acemah says, “and it’s entrepreneurial, which is what I was awarded for all those years ago. So, I feel like that [the Spirit of Youth Award] was the first step of, y’know, kind of positive reinforcement for my entrepreneurial side. And it’s not an easy path financially, and in a lot of ways it’s not an easy way to go. But it’s really gratifying, and I get to see the fruits of my labor with young people who blossom. And I get to nominate for Spirit of Youth Awards and kind of bring it full circle for me.”
For the past five years, Acemah has been working with youth in Kodiak to make films on local history. In partnership with the Baranov Museum, the films are incorporated into the museum’s archives and exhibits. Students who participate in the program get school credit for their work.
Most recently, the program received the National Youth Arts and Humanities Programs Award. Acemah traveled to Washington D.C. with student Rafael Bitanga,
“We got to collect it [the award] from Michelle Obama in the White House, and it was just, for me it was like the ultimate affirmation that you’re on a good path and that even when it’s hard and even when the pay isn’t super duper, that you’re doing something meaningful and important, and to not lose sight of that greater vision.”
Almost two decades after receiving a Spirit of Youth Award, Acemah continues to see hope and resiliency in the organization, “Spirit of Youth is a really neat program and I’m happy that I can connect my students now with it, and students from around the state can really shine this way. We need all this focus on positive energy because there’s so much negative media out there.”