KCHS grad Hannah Watkins photo appears on Dorito packages across North America.
It was the spring of 2005 when a rather nervous Kenai Central High School sophomore, Hannah Watkins, took the stage to make her oral presentation in the Caring for the Kenai (CFK) competition. Today Hannah’s photo is on every Dorito Blazin’ Buffalo & Ranch bag of chips in North America. Hannah’s winning CFK idea was to write a children’s book that would help them understand and prepare for natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. “It all started with an idea to write that first book for my CFK science assignment, then after winning the contest, people in the community like the Borough office of Emergency Management and the Fire Chief’s Association helped me find funding to get my books published and distributed. It’s just incredible how much has come from that original project,” Watkins told the Dispatch. Hannah now has authored and illustrated a total of four award winning books that teach kids how to prepare for natural disasters, Molly and the Earthquake, Heidi and the Tsunami, Spencer and the Wildfire, and James and the Volcano.
Nearly 30,000 copies of the children’s books have already been distributed across Alaska and other states and the demand continues. Hannah has received several national awards, grants, scholarships, trips to Washington D.C., the esteemed Prudential Spirit of Community Award, and a full tuition scholarship to the University of Rochester, New York, where she’ll be attending college this fall. Hannah says she is excited about starting her college career, “I can’t wait and am really looking forward to it. It’s like all your life it seems like you’re building up and working to go to college and now my chance is finally here to go there and see what I can do.”
Earlier this spring when the KPB School District was training volunteer natural disaster responders there was no funding for materials, so Hannah contributed some $2,800 of her grant monies to help the District purchase the necessary materials, “Some of my scholarships came with grant money so I was able to give money back to the school district to be used for disaster preparedness funding so I see it as a two fold benefit, it helped me, it helped the school district prepare others, the books have helped me and have helped children and it’s a circle that can keep going on and on as long as you’re willing to put forth the effort,” said Watkins.
Last fall Hannah continued that effort by applying for a national award known as the Brick Award which recognizes young leaders of today and tomorrow for their contributions, “I was selected as one of twelve finalists and flown to New York for an interview and while there we learned that Doritos would be featuring Brick Award finalists photos on their packages to show they supported young people doing good things in their communities. I was not chosen as the winner, but I did get my picture on bags of Dorito chips which is exciting but also kind of strange and embarrassing,” said Watkins. In recognizing Watkins the 2007 Brick Awards said, “Alaska is well known for its beauty. But it is also vulnerable to volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and wildfires. While many disaster safety materials are written for adults, hardly any address the fears and concerns of young kids. As a high school senior, Hannah changed that by writing a series of award winning books that teach kids how to prepare for natural disasters, and teaches all of us how one person can make a difference.” “I know college is next, and I’m not sure after that, but it shows what can come from a Caring for the Kenai idea,” said Watkins. To find out more about the Brick Awards go to www.dosomething.com to learn more about the coming 2008 CFK contest, go to www.caringforthekenai.com.
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