2019 Spirit of Youth Awardees

February 27, 2019

The 2019 Spirit of Youth Awards highlights 8 dedicated young people from around Alaska.

This year’s Award recipients are from Anchorage, Chugiak, Healy, Juneau,
Kodiak, Nikiski, Palmer, Shishmaref, Soldotna and Utqiagvik. We invite you to honor them March 30 at the Anchorage Mariott at 7 p.m. as they share their inspirational stories.

Check out the winners here.

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Purchase your seat to the 2019 Spirit of Youth Awards!

February 12, 2019

Ticket sales have closed! If you need to make a last minute change or order email info@spiritofyouth.org.

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 30 at 6 PM at the Anchorage Downtown Marriott. Purchase your tickets below, and join us in celebration of the Spirit of Youth’s 2019 Spirit of Youth Award recipients!

****Important note: If you are paying by credit card, please select the PayPal option and then the “pay with debit or credit card” button on the next screen.

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2018 Bullying Prevention Grants Available

November 26, 2018


Preventing Bullying and Its Consequences

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.


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2018 Spirit of Youth Radio Stories

October 12, 2018

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 OkitkunKotlik

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


Isaiah Dunegan-Lain—Anchorage

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 Zagyva—Wasilla

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 Bitanga—Kodiak

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 Otto—Kodiak

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 Mcintosh—Palmer

Rylee supported the Magic Yarn Project. She and a crew made wigs for children with cancer.

Story By Cornilius Nelson, Bartlett High School graduate

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Former Spirit of Youth Honoree Pays It Forward, Nominating a Youth in 2017

February 9, 2018

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.


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Anchorage Youth Develop Bullying Prevention PSAs

January 25, 2018


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.



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Youth Discuss Bullying In Podcast Series

November 27, 2017

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.



This podcast series was funded by Spirit of Youth. It was produced by Story Works Alaska and Alaska Teen Media Institute producers.

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Spirit of Youth Bullying Prevention Campaign Grants

November 1, 2017

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

View the grant application guide here:

Complete the application here:

For questions:

Contact: info@spiritofyouth.org

Visit: https://anchoragecollaborative.org/ for more about bullying behavior, rates, and consequences.

Call: Spirit of Youth 907-272-2875

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CITC Youth Interns Explore the world of Media with ATMI!

July 26, 2017


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.

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Spirit of Youth’s Annual Report for FY 16/17

July 25, 2017


Screen shot 2017-07-25 at 3.57.00 PM

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.

Click here to see the full annual report.

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2007 Award Recipient Aviva Hirsch on giving back and the power of stories

June 12, 2017


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.  

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