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