MISS Woman of the Week
Teressa Baldwin, Kotzebue
In high school, Teressa Baldwin made herself a list of goals and one of them was to save 100 people from committing suicide. She did not sit back and wait for the opportunities to knock on her door. Instead, Baldwin started her own campaign, Hope4Alaska, and traveled across the state of Alaska to tell the story of how suicide has affected her. She gave a speech at the end of her senior year where she mentioned that she has reached out to the Congress, 24 senators, 6 governors, 4 states, over 6,000 Alaska teenagers, and even to President Obama himself.
Teressa Baldwin is the daughter of Sarah Randall of Ambler and Clyde Baldwin of Kiana. She grew up close to her step-father Peter Reich Sr. and his parents Herman and Della Reich. Baldwin grew up in Kotzebue and is a 4-year Mt. Edgecumbe High School alumnus. She is grateful for the experiences both places have given her; Kotzebue showed her the true cultural triumphs and hardships Rural Alaska faces today while MEHS acted as a bridge to different cultures and opportunities as well as providing an environment that helped her prepare for college.
Baldwin first got involved in Mt. Edgecumbe’s student council when she was a Sophomore. That year, she was appointed as the Secretary/Treasurer by the Alaska Association of Student Governments. These involvements led to Baldwin’s interest in giving back to Alaska and, more specifically, getting involved in suicide prevention. Along with her collaboration in student governments both locally and across the state, she participated in cheerleading for two years, served as the president of both the National Honor Society and LEADS, a community service group on campus. As a Junior, Baldwin was chosen by Governor Parnell to be the Youth Representative of the statewide suicide prevention council. She was a unique voice in this adult-based council and, with the help from them, she decided to begin Hope4Alaska.
Throughout her senior year, Baldwin traveled nearly every week to hold school assemblies where she told her story to students of all ages. Her speech described how suicide has affected her life, starting from the story of losing her uncle at the age of five to an ex-boyfriend committing suicide when she was sixteen. She would also tell of how these students can help with preventing suicide through simple acts of kindness. Being a strong advocate of community service, Baldwin also provided opportunities for the schools to volunteer through student councils and youth leader groups.
Throughout the process of her campaign, Baldwin received the Lu Young Leadership Award from the Alaska Federation of Natives, President Obama’s Champion of Changes Award (which was personally awarded by Obama himself!), Student Leader of the Year from Alaska Association of Student Governments, and the Alaska Marketplace Award which rewarded up to $25,000 to the efforts of Hope4Alaska. Baldwin is humbled by these awards and recognitions but admits that the morals and values she’s learned during the process have benefited her more. The lessons she’s learned and the relationships she’s formed through Hope4Alaska gave it its true worth.
Hope4Alaska is now in the hands of 3 teens from across Alaska as Baldwin attends her first year at the University of California, San Diego. Hope4Alaska has the goals of going national with the help from the Center for Native American Youth when she finishes school. Next month, she will be speaking on the issues of Indian Country at the Center for Native American Youth. She is also a new, proud sister of Chi-Omega, a sorority of 100 sisters who support her at UCSD. Baldwin currently works at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography where she is continuing her research on the acoustics of Bowhead whales. She holds interests in environmental systems, earth science, and sociology but has yet to determine what she would like to major in. One thing she is sure of, though, is her return back home when she is done with school.
“I really believe that the best way to help out our community is to bring back what I have learned, whether it be an environmental aspect or a social aspect.” Baldwin said.
Baldwin mentions that she could not have gotten here without the support and inspiration many adults have provided for her. Baldwin says she is most influenced by her mother, Sarah Randall, who graduated college in 2011 while also working full time and raising a family. Baldwin is also motivated by Carol Waters, Rosie Ropell, Sonnie Anderson, Corey Butler, and Emily Sexton who provided her support throughout the year while working with Hope4Alaska. Mt. Edgecumbe High School made is possible for Baldwin to pursue her passion in suicide prevention while also making sure she graduated. Baldwin says Marie Greene and Martha Whiting helped her learn that she can be a strong Inupiaq woman who fought for her people.
“I am not telling you these stories for you all to feel depressed. I am telling you these stories because it is time for all of us to know that it does happen. When you belong, you feel safe and accepted and you become yourself. Our current environment with rape, suicide, and abuse isn’t a safe environment. Someone at your school can’t be themselves because they don’t have a safe environment. Society tries to hide these things that happen every day.” Baldwin says in her closing speech for Hope4Alaska in spring 2012.
“It has been proven that if you talk about an issue and make it known and spread awareness, the epidemic problem can be solved and lives can be saved.” She says later in the speech, “Alaska held the highest suicide rates in the nation for almost all our lives. Now, we are number two in the nation because of how many people have pulled together to make it an everyday awareness.”
Remember, if there are any influential women of the Arctic you would like to nominate to be featured as the MISS Woman of the Week, you can e-mail us the name and a way of contact to firstname.lastname@example.org We would love to feature women from all over the region to celebrate their lifestyles and accomplishments.
MISS Quote of the Week
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” -Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the US
MISS Song of the Week
Unwritten- Natasha Bedingfield