Nominations open for young Alaskan heroes

Nominations are now open for noteworthy youth in Alaska to be celebrated through the Summer of Heroes scholarship program sponsored by Alaska Communications and the Boys & Girls Club.

The program is being promoted by an Anchorage youth who has already been recognized by the Boys and Girls Club for his community involvement.

Aaron Harkely is a 17-year-old from Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood, who was named the Youth of the Year by Boys and Girls Club – Alaska. Harkely graduated from East High School in December, and has been involved in his local Boys and Girls Club for 11 years – following his older brother along to the program. Harkely is a videographer, and teaches young people how to produce and edit video including music production.

To those who are interested in being nominated, or people wanting to nominate a youth that they know, Harkely said “don’t hesitate.”

“There’s a reason why when the Summer of Heroes program was expressed to whoever it was, there’s a reason why a certain youth or a certain kid in your community came up in their minds,” Harkely said. “I would say ‘don’t hesitate.’ Don’t hesitate because it’s a good opportunity for anybody.”

Nominations opened May 1, and will remain open until June 18. Winners will be announced in July.


The program is now in its 13th year, and over that time 74 youths from 24 communities across the state have received scholarships. There has yet to be a winner from Cordova.

Nominees must be between ages 6 to 18. Up to six will be selected for a scholarship, and each will be given special recognition in their local community.

Selected winners receive a $2,000 Alaska 529 scholarship that can be used at most colleges, universities, and vocational schools in the country.

Harkely emphasized that anyone can nominate a youth hero – businesses, siblings, parents, coaches, teachers, principals, employers, etc.

Last year’s youth heroes were from Anchorage, Fairbanks, Salcha, Shishmaref, Thorne Bay and Wrangell, and their work ranged from routinely helping the elderly, to teaching Native dance, and to being a member of a volunteer fire department.

Harkely said that the young people he talks to about the program are excited and eager, but are also feeling the competitive spirit for the six spots.

The judging panel typically selects nominees whose nominations highlighted the youth’s actions within their community. The form has space for nominators to write about the character and achievements of the nominee.

The panel is looking for nominees who are involved in volunteering or fundraising, making a difference within their school, contributing to their community, or inspiring others, Harkely said.

“Today’s local heroes are Alaska’s future leaders,” said Sandy Knechtel, chief operations officer of Alaska Communications, in the press release for nominations. “The work of these young heroes, and that of Boys & Girls Clubs – Alaska, is remarkable. It’s an honor to support them and bring awareness to the positive change they are making in our communities.”

During the nomination cycle, Alaska Communications pledges to donate $25 to Boys & Girls Clubs – Alaska for each new residential or business internet connection — up to $15,000 total.

“Typically, it’s negative actions that get the most attention, but the truth is, so many of our youth are doing good and are positive forces in our communities. We appreciate this effort to shine the light where it deserves to be – on youth heroes,” said Jennifer Patronas, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs – Alaska, in the press release for nominations.

Harkely said that he appreciates both Boys and Girls Club – Alaska and Alaska Communications for this program. “The youth don’t really get opportunities like this in Alaska, so it’s nice to have people looking up to the youth to uplift them,” he said.

More information and the nomination form can be found at