Up, Up, and Beyond the Call: 2019 Afterschool Superhero Award!

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Once more, the clarion call for amazing afterschool professionals bellowed across the state, and these five exceptional individuals rose up to meet the challenge head-on with grace and tenacity.  The Alaska Afterschool Network is recognizing five outstanding afterschool professionals who act as everyday superheroes in our youth’s lives during Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week, April 22-26, 2019.

These Afterschool Superheroes provide academic enrichment and keep youth safe, while making it possible for families to go to work with peace of mind. Out-of-school time staff step forward every day to help children in need, provide healthy snacks and meals, foster success in school, and serve as role models to the children and their community. Join us in celebrating their incredible commitment and passion for our youth!

Kristina “Krissy” Rush: ASP Coordinator, Ticasuk Brown Elementary 21st Century Community Learning Center, Fairbanks North Star Borough School District

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Every super-team needs a charismatic captain, and Krissy, Afterschool Coordinator at Ticasuk Brown Elementary in FNSBSD, “leads with a huge heart and is always seeking new, innovative ways that will not only educate, but encourage all students that they can do amazing things!” Krissy’s leadership and coordination has inspired both student and teacher alike. “I can't say enough about what a pleasure it is to work for her.  She is the best!” says one teacher who works at the program.  “Krissy is always cheering me on and telling me, ‘You are awesome!’ She has shared knowledge and opportunities with me that have helped me become a better, innovative teacher.”

Ever vigilant, Krissy has worked hard to foster support and to encourage and empower the students and teachers she looks out for to be the best they can be. “Krissy takes the time to know the students and their families.The time and energy she puts into ASP shows by the smiles, the high fives, and the appreciation we all receive.She makes me proud to be part of the ASP family at Ticasuk Brown.”

Nominated by: Lalia Brehmer, Julieanne C Held, Byron Dudley, Koya Truax, and Mary Fenno, colleagues

Drasida Basargin: Academic Coaching Assistant at 21st CCLC STEAM TEAM in Razdolna, Project GRAD Kenai Peninsula

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Drasida has become a beacon of light and hope for her community as a member of the 21st CCLC STEAM TEAM. “Drasida's calm and compassionate assistance in the Razdolna School helps create a welcoming afterschool program,” says our nominator. “She provides nutritious meals for the children, from vegetarian chili to moose quesadillas. The Russian Old Believer communities have strict dietary restrictions at certain times of the year, and Drasida ensures that the participants at STEAM TEAM have culturally appropriate and nutritious afterschool snacks.”

As a member of the Russian Old Believer community of Razdolna, Drasida helps link the goals and objectives of the 21st CCLC afterschool program within the unique culture. She supports all children in the program with her relaxed yet determined presence. Never losing her patience, all students feel a warm sense of belonging. This allows the learning to endure, the activities to continue, and connection among peers and adults to strengthen. Drasida has forged important connections in her program where relationships are the foundation for learning.

Nominated by: Jane Beck, Project Grad Manager

Lynette Ortolano: Executive Director, Kids Kupboard

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Like a streak of light, Lynette and her Kid’s Kupboard crew arrives just in time to provide fresh healthy meals to hundreds of kids. As Executive Director, Lynette has ensured for 10 years that youth across Alaska have the opportunity for a healthy lunch during the summer and out-of-school times. Her dedication to ending childhood hunger during out-of-school times has led her to partner with youth organizations throughout the Mat-Su, Eagle River and Fairbanks,  including the Boys and Girls Clubs, public libraries, and food pantries. These are just a few of the many, many partnerships and lives Lynette’s kind work has touched.  

 “When the children are safe, and their tummies are full of healthy foods, then parents have less financial stress and feel their family is being supported.  It is not a rocket science, but they could grow up to be rocket scientists with this opportunity!”

Nominated by: Tracey Hupe, Manager of Eagle River Boys & Girls Club

Kristy Peterson: 4-H Leader, Hope 4-H

Unreservedly, Kristy is ever ready and able to fly in, step up and improve the lives of the youth in her programs. But don’t take our word for it! Here’s the testimony from one mother with a child in the 4H afterschool program Kristy developed:

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“Kristy is beyond a superhero for our school.  I’m amazed at how much one woman can accomplish. Above all, she is kind and caring to everyone. She is an invaluable member of our community. Kristy’s passion for 4-H alone starts to rub off on those around her.  She is constantly thinking of new ideas for our kids in her program.  Although the kids have long school days, they cannot wait for their afterschool activities with Kristy.”

“My son comes home from his sign language and LEGO robotics clubs with more confidence and knowledge than I’ve ever seen him have.He knows who he is from the encouragement and support of the family-like environment that is provided for the kids from Kristy.He can’t wait to come home and show me new signs and talk about his latest space station he is building. Our family of five now practices signing with our son, and he is our greatest teacher.To see my oldest child flourish is the greatest feeling a parent can have.We have all grown from the teachings of Kristy, and we are so thankful she had the passion and drive to bring 4-H to our school.These kids hit the jackpot! Thank you for your hard work.It doesn’t go unnoticed.”

Nominated by: Megan Cross, Mother of afterschool student

Kiara Kearns: Child Development Leader, Camp Fire Alaska at Spring Hill Elementary

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When the need arises, astonishing individuals like Kiara step up and fight the battles we never could. “She has stepped up to fill many different roles and responsibilities,” says her former supervisor. “Kiara has a heart of gold and is so compassionate towards the youth in her program. They adore her, and she has become such a superhero and advocate for them in the school and in our organization.” A full-time college student, Kiara dedicates what little spare time she has to g trainings and learning opportunities, knowing they will benefit the youth in the program.

“Kiara saw an opportunity to develop more youth led programming. She supports the youth as they write a ‘lesson plan’ and begin to think critically about how they will be inclusive, and what they will teach their peers. She monitors risk and works to prevent accidents and teach the youth to learn from their experiences.”

“Kiara has transformed Spring Hill Camp Fire. She brings out the best in everyone through her positive and uplifting outlook. When youth are upset, she is there for them and comforts them; when youth are happy, she celebrates with them; when youth make mistakes, she teaches them that they can try again. Kiara lives her values and is helping the youth and staff at Spring Hill discover and live their own.”

Nominated by: Stacie Baker, former supervisor of recipient.

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A warm thank you to every one of our afterschool superhero award recipients and nominees! Your hard work and dedication make the world a better place day by day, and we couldn’t express enough how much you mean to us.