SOAR awards gives variety of student organizations a chance to shine

Lex Treinen/Sun Star Reporter
April 24, 2012

The SOAR awards have been awarded for the past eight years to student organizations on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. This year 7 awards were given on the Wood center patio on Saturday April 21, 2012. Michele Strehl/Sun Star

The $100 awards weren’t the only reason students gathered on the patio of the Wood Center Saturday afternoon. Representatives from about a dozen UAF clubs sat in Saturday’s sun awaiting the announcement of the winners of the 2012 Student Organizations Awards and Recognitions, or SOAR awards.

“It’s a pretty competitive thing,” LIVE coordinator Josh Hovis said. “There is an exceptionally high bar the clubs have to reach to win.”

Clubs could apply to each of the categories, and a committee of students and faculty decided the winners on Thursday and Friday.

As classes wind down and the screws tighten on academics, submitting a four-to-six-page application for one of the seven categories was a challenge in itself. It proved worthwhile for some, like Alaskan Arts for Little Haitian Hearts, the winner of the Rookie of the Year award. Club president and founding member Heidi O’Connor Brook decided to submit an application Wednesday evening a few hours before the midnight deadline. Her club was the first winner on Saturday.

Brook and her friend Ferrin Nowatzki, both of Whitehorse, Yukon, were inspired by a former classmate, they said. The classmate, while working for a volunteer organization in Haiti, discovered an elaborate system of exploitation and corruption in the Haitian orphanage system. Brook and Nowatzki, music and art students respectively, wanted to use what they are passionate about to help their friend and the children of Haiti. Once per week, the two of them, along with friends and other club members, hand make cookies, pesto, chutney and other food items that they sell on Thursday afternoons at the Wood Center. All the proceeds go directly Morgan’s charity, Little Footprints Big Steps.

The Outstanding Advisor award went to Nicole Cundiff from Students Offering Leadership Development (SOLD). SOLD students travel across the state offering leadership courses to organizations such as the Denali Chamber of Commerce and Americorps Vista. She said her main role as advisor is guidance.

“I just have amazing students,” Cundiff said. “I have no idea why they nominated me.”

“She encourages and supports us to no end,” Jessica Sutherland said as she cut old t-shirts into strips, which the club plans to make into scarves and sell for a fundraiser. 

Alaska Native student clubs won awards in three of the seven categories. The Athabascan Dance Group won the award for Diversity Enrichment. The group met weekly and brought the attendees to their feet when they performed at the Festival of Native Arts this year. The award for Exceptional Event went to Natives for Positive Change and the Legacy Award went to Native Alaskan Business Leaders.

UAF Junior Sarah Walker served as a member of Natives for Positive Change and is president of Native Alaskan Business Leaders. Natives for Positive Change won the award for their organization of Elizabeth Peratrovich Day on Feb. 16, where they screened the documentary “Ending Jim Crowe in Alaska” and performed a reenactment. The event raised awareness of Elizabeth Peratrovich, who achieved recognition of equal civil rights for Alaskan Natives before they were granted to African Americans.

As president of the Native Alaskan Business Leaders, Walker can claim credit for the prestigious Legacy Award. Though the club is involved in many projects throughout the year, Native Alaskan Business Leaders’ main accomplishment this year was winning the American Indian Business Leaders Conference Chapter competition. While the club representatives were only intending on competing in the business plan competition, they were offered a chance to compete in the Chapter competition the day it was supposed to be held.

With only an hour and a half to rehash their plan and prepare their presentation, Walker and the club were able to take first place for their plan for the Alaskan Native Student Development Program, whose mission is to reduce high school dropout rates among Alaskan Native students. Walker said the $100 prize would go straight to the execution of their plan, which they intend to enact this summer.

Newcomer K’enaanee Kkaazoot won the award for Community Service. The club, whose name roughly translates to “Skiing is fun” in Koyukun Athabascan, organized a trip to the villages of Fort Yukon, Venetie and Arctic Village, to promote cross country skiing as a means of achieving good health amongst the rural schoolchildren.

The club’s accomplishments are remarkable considering it has such little funding, Leadership Involvement and Volunteer Experience Coordinator Josh Hovis said.

The award for academic achievement went to the Collegiate Music Educators National Conference. The organization is made of primarily music education students who are interested in developing the community and their own skills, club member Marchelle Renner said.

The organization taught music to preschool students at the Eneput Children’s Center, sent members to a music conference in Chicago, and received a grant for classroom smart boards and camera technology. They also hosted the Pub League Pick-up Band at the College Coffeehouse.

Hovis called the depth of the club’s resume “extraordinary.”

Hovis was amazed with the diversity of clubs’ applications he saw this year, he said. After his first year as LIVE coordinator, Hovis said he hopes to see more clubs applying next year, and add another award category for a recreational or fun club.

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