Wasilla youth to receive 2014 Spirit of Youth awards

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 23:00

Three Wasilla teens have been selected as 2014 Spirit of Youth award recipients in the categories of Media & Technology and Service to Peers.

Heather Johnson will receive a Business & Government award for her recently published book, “Hidden Voice: A Story of Discovering Strengths,” about helping youth build self-esteem and deal with bullies and negative comments. The 15-year-old Mat-Su Central School student is a delegate to the People to People Ambassador Program, member of the National Association of Professional Women and an instructor at this year’s Alaska Young Writers Conference.

Samuel Allred, 14, is being honored in the Overcoming Challenges Award. Allred has battled a rare kidney disease since he was a toddler. He created the non-profit organization Project Comfort that makes travel-sized pillows and distributes them to hospitalized children all over the United States. During the past three years he and his community have made more than 3,000 pillows. He is also the author of “Opening Hearts,” a book that aims to provide hope and encouragement for kids who are chronically ill.

Gabrielle Zaleski was selected for the Service to Children award for her dedication to her community. The 17-year-old Colony High School student volunteers for several local causes and spends time with young children at her church and a local elementary school. She created the Miss Snowflake Pageant, specifically designed to spotlight girls with special needs and their abilities.

The three teens will be honored with the other winners at the Spirit of Youth Awards Dinner Saturday, April 5, at 6 p.m. at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown. They were chosen from more than 150 statewide nominations by the Spirit of Youth Teen Advisory Council.

Spirit of Youth changes community perceptions about Alaska’s teens. Through use of media and recognition the organization highlights youths’ accomplishments and demonstrates that teens are caring contributors in our communities. Spirit of Youth has shared hundreds of positive stories about Alaska youth through their public radio series, which broadcasts to nearly 100 communities across the state.

Now in its 16th year, the awards dinner recognizes the hard work and efforts of future leaders to share their inspiring and heart-warming stories.

Guests at the event include the families and supporters of the awardees as well as community leaders, educators and dignitaries.

Tickets for the awards dinner can be purchased at spiritofyouth.org.

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