Carlee Rizzo, 17, of Kenai, Alaska, a senior at Nikiski Middle/High School, created an organization that has raised more than $16,000 so that 300 teachers in her large and remote school district can help students whose families are suffering through hard times. As the daughter of two teachers, Carlee grew up watching her parents struggle to help students in need stay on track in school, often dipping into their own pockets to provide school supplies or decent clothing. By the time she was a freshman, she had witnessed a friend living in a car with her mother, families facing the frigid Alaska winter without heat in their houses, and kids going hungry on weekends. “There are always students that need help,” said Carlee. “I realized that someone had to do something, and that someone was me. I could not be one of those people who stand by and watch others suffer.”
Carlee formed a board of teachers to consider requests from colleagues with students who need a helping hand. Then she went to work raising money for her Nikiski Children’s Fund. She sold donated baked goods at dozens of play productions, sponsored concerts, started an annual fall festival at her school, and organized a yearly charity softball game between her hometown fire department and local law enforcement. Her efforts have provided winter coats and shoes for grade-school children, weekend food for kids on school lunch programs, driving lessons for teens, temporary housing for homeless youth, and transportation for kids who otherwise would have to walk miles to school on dark Alaskan highways. She has also covered electric bills to keep the power on in students’ homes.