Spirit of Youth

Creating, promoting and recognizing youth involvement in communities across Alaska. Email the blog at info@spiritofyouth.org.

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Stony River teen fights to keep school open, receives Spirit of Youth Award

Elizabeth Willis of Stony River has been selected as a 2014 Spirit of Youth Award recipient in the category of Service to Peers.

Elizabeth Willis was selected for the Spirit of Youth Service to Peers Award for her work to keep her school open.Elizabeth Willis was selected for the Spirit of Youth Service to Peers Award for her work to keep her school open.

Willis is a student at Gusty Michael School, which was on the verge of shutting its doors, but through the opening of a student-run grocery store was able to remain open. Willis volunteered to keep the store running during the summer, when it’s normally closed, and sold enough groceries to pay the school’s first utility bill.

The 16-year-old volunteered as spokesperson for the store and discussed her school’s financial difficulties at the Kuskokwim Corporation’s summer meeting and the First Alaskans Institute’s 2013 Elders and Youth Conference in Fairbanks.

Going to school in Stony River is a priority for Willis in order to keep her traditions alive.

“It's home. If we were to go off to a city or boarding school, we won't be able to go out and go moose hunting. Our grandmothers and families wouldn't be there to teach us about our culture,” Willis said in a 2013 article in High Country News.

Willis 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.

Learn more about this year's award winners and reserve your seats at the 16th Annual Spirit of Youth Awards Dinner Saturday, April 5.

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