March 13, 2017


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


Anchorage Marriott Hotel, 820 W. 7th Avenue, Anchorage, AK, 99577


Individuals and groups to be honored by category:


Phoenix Award

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.


Dreamer Award

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.


Humanitarian Award

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.


Visionary Award

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.


Lifesaver Award

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.


Innovator Award

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.



Contact: Nithya Thiru,, (907) 272-2875