6 ‘teen heroes’ recognized for the good they’re putting in Alaska

Published: Aug. 28, 2022 at 5:17 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A group of six Alaskan teens is being honored by the Boys and Girls Club and Alaska Communications for the good they’ve done within the state.

For the 12th year in a row, the Summer of Heroes Program is celebrating six teens for their outstanding community service across Alaska. Each teen showed a range of attributes from positive outcomes of inclusion, to preserving cultural traditions for future generations, and simply supporting those in need. Heather Marron with Alaska Communications says actions have a way of making a tremendous impact on those around them.

“We’ve seen so many wonderful stories over the years. A hero is really subjective, it can mean something different to everybody, and that’s what makes this program so great,” Marron said.

Anna Boltz, a high school sophomore from Anchorage, is one of the six teens being recognized for using her voice to fight for more inclusive playgrounds and sports teams for disabled kids. Boltz has been in a wheelchair all her life, but that doesn’t stop her from being active. Since the age of two, she began skiing and even competed in the adaptive nationals in Winter Park, Colorado last year.

“I’ve always competed against able-bodied people so it was really new but also really nice for me to be competing against other people with disabilities so that was fun,” Boltz said.

Here at home, she is the only seated athlete on her school’s tennis and track team. But, she’s looking to change that by building a community of kids and teens just like her.

“It can be hard to compete against able-bodied kids in the school district with tennis and track so I hope to bring more teens to compete in an adaptive division in high schools so I’m not the only one anymore,” said Boltz.

Each teen was awarded a $1,500 scholarship for their efforts and Alaska communications donated $15,000 to Boys & Girls Clubs of Alaska to further support youth development throughout the state.

The other five honorees are:

• Salome Hanauer, 16, Salcha: Salome joined her local Fire & Rescue cadet/junior firefighter program and then spearheaded the updates of materials and guidelines so teens could have an opinion on how the program operates.

• Kenny Iyatunguk, 17, Shishmaref: Kenny is an Iñupiaq dancer who is working towards preserving and sharing his community’s traditions and ways of life. Recently, he helped revive the Shishmaref Dance Team and raised funds for them to travel to dance festivals.

• Tyler Neumann, 18, Fairbanks: Tyler splits up his time by serving as an assistant soccer coach, at the local food bank, and supports his grandparents when they need help.

• Wes Stutzman, 16, Thorne Bay: Wes is a classic handyman. He helps the people in his remote area by collecting, chopping, and delivering wood, shoveling snow, helping take care of pets, and providing support and assistance to elders in a variety of capacities. And, he does it all at no charge.

• Mia Wiederspohn, 15, Wrangell: Mia started a weekly podcast on a local radio station where she teaches Tlingit words and phrases. These podcasts show that even students can have a positive impact on something as difficult as language recovery.