Each year, Spirit of Youth recognizes roughly youth from communities across the state by soliciting nominations from caring community members and partnering with school boards to conduct local recognition events. These youth receive accolades for accomplishments that no other group applauds, including cultural pursuits, science and environmental activities, the arts, and service to the community.
The process culminates with the Spirit of Youth Awards which highlight dedicated young people and unsung heroes from around Alaska. The awards recognize the hard work and efforts of these future leaders. We utilize this opportunity to share their inspiring and heart-warming stories with the community.
Each young person or group who is nominated receives a congratulations packet from Spirit of Youth and a certificate, which is presented at a public gathering. Nominees are eligible to be selected for the Spirit of Youth Award each year. Eight nominees are chosen by the Spirit of Youth Teen Advisory Council to receive the award. Individual award recipients will receive a scholarship from Alaska 529 of at least $2,000 and 8 runners-up will each receive a 1,000 scholarship. Group recipients receive a grant to support their efforts.
Spirit of Youth Award recipients are also be highlighted on our radio series which is aired on virtually every public radio station in Alaska reaching nearly 100 communities and 94,000 listeners. These stories allow adults around that state to hear positive and accurate portrayals of teens that counterbalance negative stereotypes which so often get perpetuated by the media. Since our start, thousands of positive stories about Alaska youth have been shared through television, radio and local newspapers.
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. Previous nominees have managed political campaigns, served on school boards and youth courts, built and hosted campaign websites, or have organized fundraisers, designed play grounds, repaired houses, helped elders and others in need.
The Innovator Award shines the spotlight on the efforts of youth who have shown excellence in the fields of math and science through research, study, or improvement in their community. Previous nominees include youth who studied humpback whale DNA, created a community planet walk, participated in robotics programs, and conducted earthquake research.
The Lifesaver Award celebrates youth who have gone above and beyond “the call of duty” by preventing injuries and illness and saving lives. Previous nominees have shown courage by pulling hypothermic tourists out of a raging river, taught life-saving skills, conducted seat belt programs and served as volunteer firefighters or first responders.
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. Previous nominees have raised funds to help others with an illness, have succeeded despite disability, or helped their families or community address difficult circumstances.
The Visionary Award recognizes youth who have turned their creativity and knowledge into an economic venture. Previous nominees have built and hosted websites and have even started their own movie theatres, coffee shops and delivery services.
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. Previousnominees include students who have worked on radio programs and local newspapers, organized musical ensembles, and taught native arts and dance.
Teens nominated for the Role-Model Award lend a helping hand to peers and younger youth in their community. These teens can be outstanding leaders, peer counselors, or a positive assistant in the classroom. Previous nominees have included tutors, mentors, or instructors in a variety of fields. These teens build assets in themselves and their friends.
The Discovery Award highlights accomplishments made by youth in environmental advocacy projects and technology ventures. Previous nominees include youth who mapped the Kenai floodplain and worked to restore the Kenai River banks, as well as those who created relevant websites and taught computer skills in their communities.