Mia Wiedersphohn of Wrangell hosts her podcast on the local radio station teaching Tlingit words and phrases. Wiedersphohn was recognized by Alaska Communications Summer of Heroes program last year as a youth impacting her community in a positive way. Nominations are open for this year’s program until June 18. (Courtesy Photo / Alaska Communications)

Mia Wiedersphohn of Wrangell hosts her podcast on the local radio station teaching Tlingit words and phrases. Wiedersphohn was recognized by Alaska Communications Summer of Heroes program last year as a youth impacting her community in a positive way. Nominations are open for this year’s program until June 18. (Courtesy Photo / Alaska Communications)

Alaska Communications seeks nominations for local youth heroes

Summer of Heroes program in collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club - Alaska.

Alaska Communications is currently looking to make it an Alaskan summer of heroes by asking for the public’s help in finding outstanding youths who are deserving of recognition.

Alaska Communications and Boys & Girls Clubs – Alaska are working in collaboration to find Alaska youths who can be called heroes for making a positive difference within their communities. Through the annual Summer of Heroes program, up to six selected youths will each be awarded a $2,000 scholarship through Alaska 529 and given special recognition in their local communities.

Heather Marron, a corporate communications manager with Alaska Communications said one aspect of the program that she personally appreciates is that the criteria isn’t necessarily based solely on grades or academic merit, but rather the effort that young people are putting forward to change their communities for the better.

“It’s such an open-ended idea and brings forward so many great kids, we recognize them for the activities that they’re doing, it can be anything from volunteering, raising funds for a cause, making a difference in school, inspiring others to take action, putting other people’s needs before their own and beyond,” Marron said. “There are so many great things happening and we want to recognize that and reward that.”

Marron said individuals and businesses are encouraged to nominate Alaska youth by submitting a nomination form by June 18. Nominees have to be between the ages of 6 and 18 and they have to live in Alaska, but they do not have to be affiliated with the Boys & Girls Club of Alaska. After all of the nominees come in, Marron said the committee then puts together a statewide judging panel who will then select up to six winners who, in addition to receiving the graduation scholarship money, will also receive a local recognition within each recipient’s community to be shared with their friends and family.

“The $2,000 graduation scholarship can be used at accredited colleges, universities and vocational schools nationwide, it doesn’t have to be used in Alaska,” Marron said. “Not every kid is on a college track, so we like to keep the scholarship versatile within the realm of education.”

Marron said last year six young people were recognized from all across the state from Anchorage, Fairbanks, Salcha, Shishmaref, Thorne Bay and Wrangell. Two of last year’s winners included Kenny Iyatunguk of Shishmaref and Mia Wiedersphohn of Wrangell.

Wiedersphohn was recognized for her acknowledgement of the importance of language recovery and her efforts to preserve local language by creating a weekly podcast on the local Wrangell radio station teaching Tlingit words and phrases.

“We thought that was a really interesting way to connect with the community and keep the local language alive,” Marron said. “We just thought her actions as a role model and the different ways in which she was impacting her peers were worthy of being called a hero.”

Marron said Iyatunguk was recognized for reviving the Iñupiaq dancing in his community and his school. He also helped to raise funds so that they could travel to events like the Alaska Federation of Natives.

Kenny Iyatunguk was recognized last year by Alaska Communications and the Boys and Girls Club - Alaska through the Summer of Heroes program for reviving the Iñupiaq dancing in his community and his school in Shishmaref. Nominations for 2023 youth heroes is open until June 18. (Courtesy Photo / Alaska Communications)

Kenny Iyatunguk was recognized last year by Alaska Communications and the Boys and Girls Club - Alaska through the Summer of Heroes program for reviving the Iñupiaq dancing in his community and his school in Shishmaref. Nominations for 2023 youth heroes is open until June 18. (Courtesy Photo / Alaska Communications)

“He also volunteers at the local vet clinic and supports his family through subsistence hunting and fishing and is really well known within his community as being that force for positivity and helping others and we were really inspired by the work that he was doing in his small community,” Marron said.

Additionally Marron said Alaska Communications has pledged to donate $25 to Boys & Girls Clubs – Alaska for every new residential or business internet connection between May 1 and June 18, up to $15,000 total.

“We would love to see more nominations come in from Juneau and Southeast,” Marron said. “We’ve seen so many great ones come in from the past couple of years and we look forward to continuing to recognize youth in our region.”

• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at jonson.kuhn@juneauempire.com

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