Contributing to the community is an important part of Katie VanDerWege's life.
For the past 2 1/2 years, she has done so by reaching out to youth through a radio show on public radio station KDLL.
Monday night, she was recognized for her achievements when the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District presented her with an Alaska Spirit of Youth award.
VanDerWege first got involved in radio through a Quest internship with Roy Mullins at KDLL. She joined him on his show, and when a disc jockey position opened at the station, he recommended her for the job.
She has focused her program on highlighting outstanding young people in the community, youth events, school sports and "younger music."
She also tried to pass on opportunities to other youth, bringing guests to her show to introduce them to the world of radio.
VanDerWege, a recent Skyview High School graduate who plans to attend the University of Northern Colorado in the fall, said the Spirit of Youth award was a great honor for her.
"It's incredible. It means I've made a contribution to the community that fostered me through high school, that I've made a difference," she said. "It's more than I could ever ask for."
The board also presented Spirit of Youth awards to four other area youth, who were not available for comment Tuesday.
Carrie Collins was recognized as a community volunteer and treasurer of the Skyview High School Interact Club. She also has coordinated children's craft fairs. She received the Spirit of Youth award for service to the community.
Caelin Kubena received the award for her personal triumph over challenges. Kubena is a victim of Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disorder. According to the Spirit of Youth Web site, "She knows the pain and true devastation that ignorance of her disease can cause. She has become an accomplished public speaker and educator."
Bethany Thornton is a volunteer Sunday school teacher and camp counselor and, as secretary of the Skyview Interact Club, she coordinates projects to improve interaction between teen-agers. Her award was for service to her peers.
Angel Hollers was honored for her service to children. She works part-time and voluntarily tutors elementary students every week. She also talks to younger students about health and peer group topics.
"We are thrilled with the positive things youth are doing in the community," said school board president Nels Anderson. "I hope they will continue."
Spirit of Youth is an Alaska foundation designed to bring positive attention to teen-agers in the state. Award winners must be nominated by a teacher, supervisor or other leader. Awards are given in 10 categories: environmental activism, cultural activities, fine arts, lifesaver and prevention, participation in government or business, science, technology and media, service to peers, young children or community and overcoming challenges.
A banquet will be held in October in Anchorage to honor all the state's award-winning youth.
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