Champion for Kids
Each year Alaska Children’s Trust recognizes an individual that has demonstrated dedication and commitment in working toward eliminating child abuse and neglect by ensuring that children are living in safe, supportive, and nurturing communities. The purpose of the Champion for Kids Award is to recognize someone for his or her contributions to children living throughout Alaska, whether it is through their professional employment, volunteer work, community activities, or actively working with children.
2017 Southcentral Champion for Kids Heather Harris
It is nearly impossible to talk to Heather for more than a few moments without hearing her clear commitment to children and teens – especially those who are at greater risk of experiencing trauma in their lives. The more complex the human experience, the more she is ready to engage. Uniquely, however, Heather isn’t just interested in a quick fix, but rather her strategy is first to listen and understand and then to seek collaborative solutions that don’t make life better for just one person but for a system of people. Currently the executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Heather has dedicated two decades to our most vulnerable children and youth, engaging with Alaska Youth Advocates, Standing Together Against Rape, Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association, Anchorage Youth Development Coalition and Alaska CARES, among other. She has worked with homeless youth, been an advocate for children who have experienced sexual abuse, and has promoted positive youth development through her leadership on various boards. This dedication and passion does not stop at the office. At home, Heather and her husband Josh create safe space in their extended family and in their neighborhood. That space engages the neighborhood kids who instinctively know that Heather and Josh are there for them. Neighborhood kids, children in foster care or incarcerated or abused and neglected are all welcomed by Heather and Josh – there is truly enough love and support to go around.
2017 Interior Champion for Kids: Monte Lynn Jordan
For 30+ years Monte Lynn Jordan has been a driving force behind agencies and events that help prevent child abuse and neglect through supporting healthy kids in Alaska. When she believes in something, her whole heart goes into it, and she believes that healthy communities begin with healthy kids. Monte’s exemplary service is a motivating force behind groups that support healthy families, and especially children. She has worked with the Resource Center for Parents and Children helping parents develop parenting skills, which in turn strengthens the family unit and helps prevent child abuse and neglect; she is a member of the Board of Directors for The Carol H. Brice Center, which promotes healthy families through education, daycare assistance, legal help, and low-cost health care; and she has beena Court Appointed Special Advocate for abused, neglected, or abandoned children in juvenile court proceedings. In addition, Monte works to prevent child abuse and neglect by providing young people with healthy activities. She’s a founding member of Running Club North’s Equinox Kid’s Marathon; she volunteers to help with high school track and field events; and helps organize the Alaska Children’s Trust Mush for Kids. Monte is also involved in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization as an active Big Sister to a local young person, with whom she has maintained a relationship well into adulthood. Whether as part of a group, or individually, Monte’s enthusiasm for a healthy, active lifestyle is both an inspiration and motivation for kids, many of whom face challenging circumstances. Monte is quite simply a positive force in society. Her ardent activism on behalf of children, faith in the power of a healthy lifestyle, and unwavering efforts in her community mean that she can will be wherever she is needed. She has been called many things: persistent, insistent, ally, and friend to name a few, but one thing is certain—she is a champion for kids.
2017 Southeast Champion for Kids: Senator Anna MacKinnon
As a Representative, Senator and community member, Anna MacKinnon has ensured our children and families live in safe, stable and nurturing environments. Anna started out with impressive beginnings as the Executive Director of STAR. During her time at STAR, Anna established herself as an effective advocate for abuse prevention programs. While at STAR, her team implemented a children’s sexual abuse outreach program in the school district. Her commitment to children continued when she became a state Representative. Anna was an invaluable partner of ACT’s. In 2008, ACT and its’ sister organization, Friends of Alaska Children’s Trust (FACT) began the process of transforming ACT from a state led organization to an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit. To make this goal a reality, the state entity needed to be abolished and the endowment transferred to the Alaska Community Foundation (ACF). After lawmakers argued over the legality of the bill, a controversy ensured and, ultimately, the bill failed. It was at this time that ACT knew that they needed to enlist a champion within the legislature who could help this goal be realized; Anna MacKinnon was that champion. In 2009, Anna introduced two bills to achieve ACT’s goal. For two legislative sessions, these bills languished until finally Anna’s persistence was rewarded; in 2010 the bills were passed and signed by Governor Parnell. In 2015, she was instrumental in making Erin’s Law into law after it had failed to do so the year prior; Erin’s law requires the public schools of Alaska to have prevention-oriented child sexual abuse programs in place. To make the bill stronger, the bill was expanded to include Bree’s Law, which prevents teen dating violence, and it became known as the Safe Children’s Act. The bill became trapped in red tape, but Senator MacKinnon, helped broker a deal between all parties to get the law passed. Anna has worked tirelessly to enrich the lives of our children, and, because of her, children are growing up in an even safer Alaska.
2016 Southeast Champion for Kids: Riverbend Elementary Staff
Riverbend team is a strong symbol of commitment and dedication for children. Riverbend Elementary School has committed to working towards being a trauma-informed school. Each day, they encounter students who are angry, hurt physical or mentally, hungry, tired, hopeless and not ready to learn. What they were doing was not working. Staff was becoming burnt out and hopeless themselves. One of their first steps towards becoming trauma-informed was to train the school team on brain development, how trauma impacts that development and the role resilience plays in curbing this impact. The team became aware how environment at the school could be a trigger causing the children to go into the fight, flight or freeze mode. The team took action and have started to transform their school into a truly “safe place”. Teachers would teach ‘mindfulness’ and how to self-calm, breathe and self-regulate. One of the key components to resilience is having at least one trusting adult, other than your primary care giver, a child can go to for help. To build this type of relationship with the students, staff participated in afterschool activities when parents can’t or won’t go. The school uses empirical validated trauma informed interventions. Staff continually go above and beyond to create the environment that students can learn to bounce back from their trauma (i.e. resilience). They develop realistic goals for all students and believe in all of them to achieve their dreams. The school partners with organizations outside so vital services can be connected to both the child and family.
2016 Central/Western Champion for Kids: Amanda Metivier
Amanda has dedicated her entire life to improving the lives of youth in foster care. She became a leader and spokesperson for foster youth when she was just a youth herself. She has now built the state’s largest and strongest network for foster youth and alumni. As the founder and Executive Director of Facing Foster Care in Alaska (FFCA), a statewide nonprofit that supports foster a youth and alumni, Amanda has created an incredible resource for some of the most vulnerable youth in Alaska. FFCA gives foster youth an opportunity to share their experiences, to promote improvements to our child welfare system, gain access to much needed resources, and heal from past traumas. FFCA members live across the state. Amanda simply leads by example. She’s compassionate, intelligent, passionate, and reliable, and it only takes spending a few minutes with her to see all of those traits shine. Despite the tremendous pressure she faces running FFCA, working full-time, being a foster parent, and serving as an unofficial parent to scores of youth, Amanda is always ready to help whenever she is needed.
2016 Northern Champion for Kids: Julie Wild-Curry
Out-of-school time programs play an important role in the prevention of child abuse and neglect. These types of programs create environments that endorse key protective factors for both the child and the parents. Early on, Julie recognized how important out-of-school programs were to help children grow-up to be successful. She has dedicated over 25 years, personally and professionally, to ensuring all families have access to these programs. She began her career building healthy, resilient kids and communities in Haines, AK through the community schools program. A few years later, she moved to Fairbanks, with her family and began working for the Fairbanks North Star Borough. In 1999, Julie established one of the country’s first federal funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) at Hunter Elementary in Fairbanks. 21st CCLC are federally funded afterschool programs that support low-income, underachieving students. As the Director of eleven 21st Century Community Learning Center programs for the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District, Julie and her team serve over 800 low-income students and families. In addition, she has served on committees and boards supporting the efforts to grow and strengthen afterschool programs.
Help us identify our next Champion for Kids by nominating someone in your community. If you wish to nominate someone, please fill out the award application and submit it to Trevor Storrs.