Spirit of Youth award recipient CIRI descendant Trinity Standifer, of Tyonek, has a superpower. She can’t see through walls or fly without the aid of an airplane – but she can look at any situation and know exactly how to make it better.
“I’ve never yet heard her say, ‘I can’t make this happen,'” says Bonnie Pierce, campus family support manager for Project GRAD, a nonprofit school improvement program. “Trinity puts programs together; she’ll say, ‘Let’s have a basketball team,’ and then she’ll figure out what it will take, and she makes it happen.”
That can-do attitude is one reason Pierce nominated Trinity for a Spirit of Youth Award in the service to children category. The award is designed to recognize and promote youth involvement in communities across Alaska. Last month, Trinity visited Anchorage to receive the award at the Spirit of Youth ceremony – where she was surprised to find she’d been honored with a second award.
“The ceremony was awesome anyway, and then the president’s award, too – that was a huge surprise,” says Trinity, who will receive a certificate from President Obama for the Presidential Service Award.
Typically, though, Trinity’s focus wasn’t on herself during the ceremony: “I got to listen to really heartening stories that made me cry. It was so amazing to see a bunch of kids do great work and be recognized for it.”
Even as a third-grader, Trinity had a gift for knowing exactly how to help others. She first caught Pierce’s eye when she stayed after school to help a janitor finish vacuuming.
Says Pierce, “All the maintenance people at the school were Elders from the village. Trinity recognized not only that she should be taking care of her school, but as a young person she also understood that she should be honoring her Elders.”
As an upperclassman at the K-12 Tebughna School, Trinity takes a leadership role, coaching and competing in the Native Youth Olympics, tutoring younger students and taking children to open gym at the Boys and Girls Club. She views her time outside of school as one more opportunity to help the people in her village, often babysitting for free to give local parents a break.
“Watching my younger brothers and sisters definitely inspired me to take care of other kids,” says Trinity. “Taking care of them made me realize that it feels good to help other people.”
Project GRAD, says Pierce, is focused on helping students graduate from high school and prepare for college by equipping them with qualities like self-reflection, self-respect and responsibility- things, she says, Trinity had early on. “She’s one who has always asked, ‘How can I positively improve my situation in a way that will also benefit my world, my community?'”
Through the program, students also create a vision of how they’d like their lives to look in the future. Trinity’s vision includes one day living in a warm place, studying law and working for the health and safety of women and children.
For now, she’ll keep helping those around her and looking to her parents, her grandparents and the people with Project GRAD for inspiration. “They’re the people who help me get through the days, who push me to do things even when I feel down.”
Trinity is the daughter of Lindsay Bismark and Judd Standifer. Her grandparents are CIRI shareholders Fred and Betty Bismark and CIRI shareholder Don Standifer Sr. and Eileen Standifer.