Ketchikan girl, 7, among youth awarded Summer of Heroes scholarships
For the seventh year, Summer of Heroes, a partnership program by Alaska Communications and Boys & Girls Clubs Alaska, awarded scholarships to youth activists in Alaska who have had a positive impact on their communities.
Sunday, a group of six 2017 recipients, with ages ranging from 18 to 7, were honored during a ceremony at the Alaska State Fair. A short description of each honoree's volunteer or community service project was presented, and each was given a large $1,500 check.
Wilton Charles, 18, was recognized for his work to raise awareness in his home of Toksook Bay about suicide prevention.
Mae'jon Dar Cawyer, 17, who became the youngest published Yup'ik author in Alaska at the age of 10, was recognized for using some of the profits from her book sales to distribute stuffed animals to pediatric patients at Alaska Native Medical Center during the holidays.
Quincy Taylor, 17, was appointed to the Anchorage Municipal Library Advisory Board as a student member in 2016. She was recognized for spearheading a movement to ban sites containing inappropriate content on library computers.
Aunika Alch, 16, was recognized for launching a local chapter of the national organization #HashtagLunchbag, which has fed more than 4,000 people in Anchorage in the last 18 months.
Avery White, 13, of Anchorage, was recognized for having completed more than 260 hours of volunteer work over the last few years, as the 2017 Summer of Heroes employee hero award recognizes a child of an Alaska Communications employee.
And last but not least, Addie Epler, 7, of Ketchikan, was recognized for her community activism efforts that include pushing local government to overhaul a playground, making it safe for kids in her community.
Addie is one of the youngest heroes the program has ever recognized.
When she was 4, she wrote a letter to her local officials asking them to fix a playground. The rusted swing had been removed for safety reasons, and the slide left her with splinters every time she tried to play on it. When nothing changed, she made a video, stood on a chair during a public meeting to address local leaders, and even secured a small amount of grant money for the project, with the help of her parents.
Finally, the park was fixed, and she helped cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the updated playground.
Addie says she hopes other young people will learn you're never too young to make a difference.
"Even though I have big emotions, I'm a little kid, and no matter what age you are, you should be able to do what you want. You should be able to stand up. You could stand up for someone, and you can do a big project like me."
Addie also spearheaded an "Ice cream for breakfast" event at her local library to promote literacy in her community. The event broke an attendance record for the library, as children and their families turned out to eat ice cream and read books together-- while wearing pajamas.
"When she gets her idea behind something, she just goes for it," said her dad, Peter Epler.
"She said she wants to be president," he added.
The Summer of Heroes program started in 2011 and has awarded a total of $63,000 in scholarships to 42 youth heroes in Alaska.