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NEWS | April 9, 2024

A selfless effort: Alaska National Guard teen wins NG Youth Volunteer of the Year award during visit to state legislature

By By Seth LaCount Alaska National Guard

Matsu Valley area junior from Redington High School, Justus Spaulding, 17, was born into a family tradition of service. His childhood was molded by the example his parents set for him in their time in uniform, and from a young age, he was actively involved in Guard programs that provided opportunities for him to serve others too.
 
Fittingly, Spaulding was named the National Guard FY23 Youth Volunteer of the Year on the Alaska house floor in Juneau April 2, 2024, for his impactful volunteer work in his community last year. He stood out amongst his peers on a national level and was selected for the award from a nominee pool of volunteers from all 54 states and territories.
 
Notably, Spaulding and fellow Child and Youth Program volunteers traveled to Bethel to clean up a veteran’s cemetery in town and paint a local Veterans of Foreign Wars building sign.
 
His distinguished volunteer work also included planning youth camps and volunteer events, holding various leadership positions in the Guard’s CYP, and being actively involved in both his local community and others around the state.
 
“He’s one of our most dynamic camp counselors we have,” said Suzie Mauro, the Lead AKNG CYP Coordinator. “He motivates other young people around him and keeps them excited about being a Guard kid. His calming personality has been so impactful in mentoring younger kids in the program, and he’s so willing to take them under his wing.”
 
Nora McBride, a senior at Dimond High School in Anchorage and youth council president, who was also nominated for the volunteer award, joined Justus at the Alaska State Legislature during the first week of April to speak to representatives about the Guard’s CYP and learn more about how the Alaska government operates.
 
“It’s been an honor to be here on behalf of the program,” said McBride. “A lot of people don’t know that it exists and the resources we have available. It’s helped us market the program and it’s also been a cool experience seeing how our state government works.”
 
Spaulding and McBride have been friends and co-volunteers for six years working with the CYP.
 
“I think he’s the most helpful and most instrumental part of our team,” said McBride, speaking about Spaulding. “Post-covid, we had to rebuild our program council and our dwindling volunteer force. He’s seen every aspect of the program from a young age, and he was so
helpful in sharing his vision on where we could go in the future.”
 
April marks the Month of the Military Child and April 12 is “Purple Up Day.” That day, people are encouraged to wear a purple article of clothing to show support military children for their strength and sacrifices. 
 
“I think being a Guard kid is special because I’ve got amazing leadership training from all these programs that have helped me become who I am today,” said Spaulding. “For instance, when my dad has been deployed, being able to be around kids like me who understand and having somewhere to go and be encouraged is huge. I’m glad I’m able to give back.”