2018 Award Recipients

Duncan Okitkun

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 has spoken and sang at numerous conferences. He is also involved in three different dance groups and is the leader of one of them. Additionally, he performs at his school, instilling pride in his peers and is a great role model for the young people of his village.

  • Home Town Kotlik
  • School District Lower Yukon School District
  • Award Category Dreamer

Gabriel “Gabe” Miller

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, when he comes home 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. Miller sees himself as a scientist who wants to study the micro-systems that keep our world running.

  • Home Town Ninilchik
  • School District Kenai Peninsula
  • Award Category Innovator

Isaiah Dunegan-Lain

Isaiah was able to utilize his first aid/CPR skills and save a life. In a busy classroom, at lunchtime, he was the only person who observed a student choking on food. Adults and several other students heard the student coughing and then the silence, but they didn’t connect the silence with choking. Isaiah did. He sprang into action and did the Heimlich maneuver and a young person’s life was saved.

  • Home Town Anchorage
  • School District Anchorage School District
  • Award Category Lifesaver

Kaylynn Zagyva

Kaylynn leads a Girl Talk group at Colony Middle School. The group concentrates on anti-bullying, girls supporting each other, and increasing confidence in teen girls. She is also involved in community programs like Special Santa, a fundraiser for My House, and volunteers at the North Star Vet Clinic. She participates in all these activities despite recently having surgery for a brain tumor which caused her to have to relearn much of her speech.

  • Home Town Wasilla
  • School District Mat-Su Borough School District
  • Award Category Phoenix

Rafael Bitanga

Rafael displays intelligence and leadership skills beyond his years. His strong inner drive has resulted in an academically, emotionally and socially intelligent young man. He 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.

  • Home Town Kodiak
  • School District KIBSD
  • Award Category Visionary

Robert Otto

Robert has served as a defense and prosecuting attorney with the Kodiak Teen Court. He is a skillful advocate for his clients, and masterfully applies the principles of restorative justice to all roles that he has taken on in the court. As a judge, he has mentored new youth attorneys and leads with integrity and honesty.

  • Home Town Kodiak
  • School District Kodiak Island Borough School District
  • Award Category Humanitarian

Robin “Puck” Van Dommelen

Puck is an assistant scout leader with Boy Scout Troop 209, where he earned the Eagle Scout Award. He has great knowledge of the natural world and extensive backcountry experience. He has developed a keen interest in conservation of the environment. He 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.

  • Home Town Anchorage
  • School District Anchorage
  • Award Category Discovery

Rylee Mcintosh

Rylee supported the Magic Yarn Project.  She and the crew made wigs for children with cancer. Over the years, Rylee has continued to grow her range of efforts and services, always shining light into the community and finding ways to be a positive contributor.

  • Home Town Palmer
  • School District Matanuska Susitna Borough School District
  • Award Category Role Model

2017 Award Recipients

Denali Schultz

During her time in high school, Denali Schultz became an involved member of the community. She volunteered often, and joined the Native Youth Leadership team in Kenai. While acting as a leader in her community, Denali was also working two jobs to help pay the bills for her family. Denali overcame a number of personal challenges, but continued to give back to her community and to her peers.

  • Home Town Soldotna
  • School District KPBSD
  • Award Category Phoenix

Jedediah Dean

For the past four years, Colony High School Senior Jedediah Dean 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 has won a number of awards at the Alaska State Science and Engineering Fair, and placed second at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.

  • Home Town Palmer
  • School District Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District
  • Award Category Discovery

Kaisa Reese Ahluniq Kotch

Kaisa Reese Ahluniq Kotch is devoted to combating suicide in her community. Kaisa is a member of the TECK Youth Leader’s Program, a school district program in which youth are trained in bullying and suicide prevention. She also serves as a youth representative with the Maniilaq Behavioral Health Program, which works to identify and combat primary causes of suicide. Kaisa volunteers frequently, singing for the community’s elders at the Long Term Care Unit, helping out with shiifish and hotcake feeds, and participating in Elders Council potlucks, among other pursuits.

  • Home Town Kotzebue
  • School District Northwest Arctic Borough School District
  • Award Category Lifesaver

Kaulani Napoleon

Kaulani Napoleon organized a donation drive aimed at collecting school supplies for refugee youth in the community. He began by presenting the idea to the Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services program run by Catholic Social Services in Anchorage. After receiving the green light from RAIS, Kaulani began reaching out, organizing, and educating the community. At the end of three months, Kaulani had collected hundred of school supplies from people across the country. The supplies were meticulously organized based on the individual needs of each student.

  • Home Town Eagle River
  • School District
  • Award Category Humanitarian

Maiya Anderson

Bringing together her passion for music and psychology, Maiya Anderson 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. Not only is Maiya able to create a strong bond with elders—the program also gives elders the opportunity to share their traditional knowledge and wisdom.

  • Home Town Kenai
  • School District Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
  • Award Category Dreamer

Savannah Rizzo

Savannah Rizzo has worked to establish an organization called T-Books, which provides new books to disadvantaged youth in her community. The goal is to ensure that all young people have access to literature. Through a number of fundraisers, the group was able to raise $3,000, which has been used to purchase new books for students throughout the Kenai Borough School District. They also provided Battle of Books books to Russian schools that would not otherwise be able to afford participation. T-Books is beginning to expand its programs, and is currently working to provide books to schools in Louisiana where many school libraries have lost their collections due to flooding.

Savannah is working hard to inspire youth in her community, and reduce poverty by promoting literacy.

  • Home Town Kenai
  • School District Kenai Peninsula School District
  • Award Category Visionary

Shaela Asbury

Shaela 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. Shaela is driven by her immense compassion for others.

  • Home Town Palmer
  • School District MSBSD
  • Award Category Role Model

The Quantum Mechanics FTC Robotics Team #11168

The Quantum Mechanics is a rookie, community-based robotics team for the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC). The team has achieved success with a competitive robot that broke a world record. 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.

  • Home Town Eagle River
  • School District various (ASD & Iditarod Distance Learning Center)
  • Award Category Innovator

Information about the 2017 Runners-Up can be found here.