Alaska Communications' "Summer of Heroes" Program honors local youth...

Making a difference, Jayden Tumbaga of Nikiski chosen as an Alaska Communications Summer Hero.

Alaska Communications recently announced its second annual "Summer of Heroes" program in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Alaska recognizing local youth who make a difference in Alaskan communities. The company selected five young Alaskan heroes and honored them with $1,500 scholarships and a trip to the Alaska State Fair. Alaskans from all over the state were encouraged to make nominations and when Jayden Tumbaga's mother in Nikiski heard about the Summer Heroes program she decided to nominate her son, "I graduated from Nikiski and was just about to go off to college and my mom says I'm her hero and thought some extra money would be a very good thing so she nominated me," Jayden told the Dispatch. "When I was born they told my mom that I might not make it through birth because I had some medical issues but she went through the pregnancy anyway and I turned out pretty strong and have survived and thrived through my medical issues," he said.

After battling those medical conditions as a child, Tumbaga had to grow up quickly, particularly after his parents were in a major car accident that left his dad in need of intense daily care. Jayden took on a job to earn extra income for his family and assisted with his father's medical care. Even with his responsibilities at home, he remained focused on his academics and commitment to his community, volunteering in special needs classes throughout his school years to help children with severe disabilities. "I moved to Alaska from Hawaii when I was four and as soon as I was discharged from the hospital I started my new life here in Alaska and went to work to do whatever I could to help support my family," said Jayden who took a break from his summer construction job to attend the Nikiski Mud Run.

"Giving back to my community was never something I had to think about," Jayden explains, "That's partially because my parents raised me that way, but also because helping others is just the right thing to do. Things could always be worse, but if you keep a positive attitude and appreciate everything you have you can always turn the situation around and make something better out of it," he said. Jayden is presently home from his first year of college at the University of Colorado where he is pursuing a career in pharmacology on a full-ride scholarship. "I've spent a lot of time in hospitals so I've become increasingly interested in the medical field. I also love helping other people so working in medicine is definitely where I want to be."

Jayden thinks it is extremely important to give back to the community and encourages other Alaska youth to volunteer their time as well. "You have the opportunity to change someone's life for the better," he says. "Anything that you can give, whether it's time, supplies or physical help, will make your community and the world a better place." Alaska Communications is again partnering with Boys & Girls Clubs - Alaska for the 2012 Summer of Heroes. The company is giving $25 to Boys & Girls Clubs - Alaska for every new smartphone sold between May 23 and July 23, 2012. The donation, up to $15,000 total, will help provide much needed funds for the nonprofit's youth programs. Alaskans can submit a 400- to 500-word essay and fill out a nomination form from May 23 through July 23, 2012. Young Alaskans can nominate themselves as well. Visit the Summer of Heroes website for program rules and nomination forms. "The Summer of Heroes program celebrates the wonderful contributions young Alaskans are making to our local communities. It also gives our company a chance to elevate heroic efforts of youth statewide while supporting Boys & Girls Clubs - Alaska's important programs," said Heather Cavanaugh, Alaska Communications director of corporate communications. "Last year's program was so well received by the community that we decided to make it an annual event as we continue to fulfill our promise to provide youth with education and development opportunities to help them succeed."