GCI Surprises Local Anchorage Humanitarian with $10,000 5G Trailblazer Award
Shirley Mae Springer Staten has been selected as the recipient of the GCI 5G Trailblazer Award—an award that recognizes an outstanding member of the Anchorage community who embodies the trailblazer spirit and demonstrates a commitment to making people feel more connected. GCI developed the program this year to celebrate the launch of GCI’s 5G mobile service in Anchorage—cementing Anchorage’s reputation as a leader in connectivity and home to the northernmost 5G service in the nation.
Staten was selected from among more than forty candidates who were nominated for the prize: a $10,000 award for the recipient, a $10,000 donation to the nonprofit of their choice, and a brand new 5G-compatible phone from GCI. Nominations flooded in from across the community and highlighted amazing work being done to improve quality of life in Alaska’s most populous city. Among the stories of commitment and compassion, Springer Staten’s nominations (she was nominated by three different people) stood out.
Springer Staten has been active in the Anchorage community for the last forty years, connecting people through her projects and initiatives. She has dedicated her life to bridging race, gender, class, and cultural divides. She coordinated the Citywide Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration for many years, organized several emissary trips to Cuba, took a group of young people from Fairview to Ghana, and led United Nations NGO women’s leadership conferences. Five years ago, Springer Staten formed her own nonprofit focused on creating connections, giving people in prison the keys they need for a successful life when they return home.
The GCI team announced the award at a surprise Zoom call devised by her fan base of nominators. When Springer Staten joined the meeting for what she thought would be a discussion about her new Keys to Life program, she was surprised to find friends and strangers on the call. The GCI team’s announcement that Springer Staten had been selected for the award was met by tears, cheers, and applause from participants.
“I sat there and cried. I couldn’t help but think of how I grew up, picking cotton with my grandma in Georgia back when 100 pounds got you $3,” said Springer Staten. “To think back to the time when railroad tracks divided us, to now, being acknowledged for this work, is such a great feeling – it’s hopeful.”
“We were blown away by the stories of compassion, commitment, and selflessness we received during this nomination process but one candidate stood out—Shirley Mae,” said GCI Chief Communications Officer Heather Handyside. “Shirley’s advocacy dates back to her arrival to Anchorage in 1981 and it seems that she’s spent every spare minute of free time working to make Anchorage a better place to live. One of her nominators said, ‘The truth is, we all want to be like Shirley Mae.’ Now that I’ve met her, I do, too.”
Per the award guidelines, Springer Staten was able to choose one local nonprofit to be the recipient of a $10,000 donation from GCI. She chose Keys to Life, the nonprofit she founded. A portion of the donated funds will be used for the organization’s Lullaby Project, which pairs music mentors with incarcerated parents at Hiland Mountain Correctional Facility to create lullabies for their children in an effort to keep parent and child connected. Another portion will be used for the third iteration of the Eyes Closed project called Freedom To Dream, which will highlight the stories and dreams of children from McLaughlin Youth Center in Anchorage.
“Exuberant, classy, self-reflective, and passionate, Shirley has spent decades in Anchorage forging connections between people across race, class, age, and cultural divides,” said Mariah Oxford, one of Springer Staten’s nominators. “Her personality and interest in others reflect an authenticity and respect for multiple views of the world. She may be the one Anchorage resident who can walk into any boardroom, church meeting, or classroom and make every single person feel valued and connected.”
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