Alaskan Heroes: Celebrating the Heart and Soul of the Last Frontier

As we gear up for Governor Mike Dunleavy’s sixth State of the State Address, it’s time to shine a spotlight on the six remarkable Alaskans who will be featured in this evening’s event. These individuals represent the heart and soul of Alaska, showcasing the diversity and resilience of our great state. From law enforcement to education, agriculture, community service, and hardworking citizens, their stories will undoubtedly inspire and remind us of the extraordinary people who call Alaska home.

Investigator Kristen Benge: Protecting Our Most Vulnerable

Alaska State Trooper Investigator Kristen Benge has chosen a career that few would dare to undertake. With experience in various patrol posts, she now serves in the Child Abuse Investigations Unit in Palmer. Her tireless efforts to stop child abuse and ensure that abusers are held accountable for their heinous crimes are commendable. Not only does Trooper Benge work diligently in the courtroom, but she also plays a crucial role in the healing process for victims and their families as they recover from trauma. Her dedication to protecting the most vulnerable among us is truly remarkable.

Sheila Sweetsir: Empowering Alaska’s Youth Through Education

The recent study from Harvard University has confirmed what many Alaskans already knew – our charter schools are the best in the nation. Sheila Sweetsir, the principal and co-founder of the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School in Anchorage, has played a pivotal role in achieving these outstanding educational outcomes. Since its establishment in 2007, this school has been nurturing and educating children with a combination of sound curriculum and indigenous knowledge. Sweetsir’s leadership and dedication exemplify the potential for achieving excellence in education when the right environment and approach to learning are embraced.

Sara Titus: A Teacher’s Impact Reaches Far and Wide

Representing classroom teachers across Alaska, Sara Titus has been making a positive impact on the lives of preschool and elementary students in Ruby for the Yukon-Koyukuk School District. With eight years of experience, she is not only a teacher but also a reading interventionist. Titus’s commitment to her students and her willingness to teach in various remote locations, including Huslia and Nulato, highlight the importance of recruiting and retaining exceptional teachers to ensure every Alaskan student has an opportunity to succeed.

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Tarn Coffey: Cultivating Food Security in Alaska

Tarn Coffey’s love for farming began on his family’s small farm near Talkeetna. Now, as part of the Nenana-Totchaket project, he is working to build food security for Alaska. Acquiring 225 acres in the 2022 land offering, Coffey planted his first crops last spring. His belief in the future of the Alaska agriculture industry represents the pioneering spirit of farmers, both large and small, who are crucial for ensuring our state’s food security and independence.

Mayor Patty Gilbert: Resilience in the Face of Tragedy

The devastating landslide that struck a neighborhood in Wrangell on November 20, 2023, brought immense tragedy and loss. However, the spirit and resilience of the community have been awe-inspiring. First responders and volunteers risked their own safety to conduct search and rescue operations, ultimately saving lives. Mayor Patty Gilbert represents the strength of Wrangell and the unwavering determination of its residents as they rebuild, heal, and recover from this tragic event.

Jenna Marshall: The Voice of Hardworking Alaskans

Jenna Marshall, a hardworking Alaskan and mother of two, manages a Subway location in Anchorage. She represents the hundreds of thousands of Alaskans who are unable to be in Juneau to directly influence policy decisions during the legislative session. Balancing her busy job and raising a family, Marshall embodies the hopes and dreams of countless Alaskans who want to see our state become a better and more affordable place to have and raise families.

These six Alaskans, each in their own way, demonstrate the resilience, dedication, and pioneering spirit that define our great state. Their stories inspire us to push beyond our limits, embrace diversity, and work towards a better future for all Alaskans.


Q: How were these individuals selected to be featured in the State of the State Address?
A: Governor Mike Dunleavy and First Lady Rose Dunleavy carefully chose these individuals based on their exceptional contributions and representation of the diverse sectors and communities in Alaska.

Q: What is the significance of highlighting these individuals in the State of the State Address?
A: By showcasing these individuals, Governor Dunleavy aims to highlight the extraordinary achievements of Alaskans and inspire others to make a positive impact in their respective fields.

Q: How can I support or get involved with the causes represented by these individuals?
A: There are various ways to support these causes, such as volunteering, donating to relevant organizations, or advocating for policies that promote education, safety, agriculture, community resilience, and affordable living conditions in Alaska. Consider reaching out to local organizations or contacting your representatives for more information on how you can contribute.


As we prepare to listen to Governor Mike Dunleavy’s State of the State Address, let us remember the remarkable Alaskans who will be featured tonight. Their stories remind us of the resilience, dedication, and pioneering spirit that define our great state. From protecting our most vulnerable, empowering our youth through education, and cultivating food security, to overcoming tragedy and representing hardworking Alaskans, these individuals embody the values that make Alaska unique. Let their stories inspire us to make a positive impact in our own communities and work towards a brighter future for all Alaskans.

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." - Galatians 6:9

Remember to check back for updates on these individuals and their ongoing contributions to Alaska’s progress.

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