Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.


Clayson Wiley, Audrey Winterton, Carson Ash and Nicholas Corcoran organized the No One Left Behind awards ceremony this month. Kris Capps/News-Miner

The four cadets were high school freshmen when the first awards ceremony was held. They described themselves then as dedicated “worker bees.” Now, four years later, they directed other “worker bees” for the annual event, which honored 25 first responders including firefighters, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and dispatchers.

The four cadets include Cadet Col. Audrey Winterton, commander of the North Pole High School Patriot Group; Cadet Lt. Col. Carson Ash, commander of the Lathrop High School Malemute Battalion; Cadet Sgt. Major Nicholas Corcoran of the Lathrop High School Malemute Battalion; and Cadet Lt. Col Clayson Wiley, deputy commander of the North Pole High School Patriot Group.

The four of them are responsible for selecting winners of the community service awards and they are continually impressed at the heroics routinely described in nominations.

“There’s more to being a firefighter than just driving a truck,” said Carson Ash. “There’s so much that goes unseen. It motivates us to be better citizens.”

Ash also finds himself exploring the role of first responders as he writes essays applying for colleges. One topic analyzes the question: Why does this guy risk his life for me?

This multi-year project changed a life goal for Clayson Wiley. He planned a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) but is rethinking that now.

“I definitely veered more toward justice or law career field,” he said. “I see the amazing work they (first responders) do, what they’re capable of, and that is the person I want to be.”

Helping organize this awards program had a profound impact on Nicholas Corcoran.

“I’d definitely like to join the military,” he said. “If I don’t do that, I want to do something to give back.”

They all learned from their cadet mentors and they want to now pass on that knowledge to the new leaders coming up behind them.

Cadets leading cadets is motivating, Wiley added.

This event also helped them put leadership skills into practice.

Communication is key, Ash said, adding, “You need everyone on the right track or the train isn’t going anywhere.”

“You have to be prepared for anything, always having backups, spares and thinking things through,” said Audrey Winterton. “I think this event encourages young people to not focus so much on electronics but to be aware of their community and what is going on around them.”

“It’s amazing how much planning actually goes into a large event like this,” Corcoran said.

‘I’ve learned about being a strong and positive leader too,” Wiley said. “It never works well if you’re too busy trying to figure out who is in charge. Make sure everyone knows what their purpose is.”

The No One Left Behind annual event is modeled after the UAF Business Leader of the Year award and also serves as a fundraiser for the Fairbanks Rescue Mission. In the past three years, the event has raised more than $40,000.

About 160-170 people attended the special evening on Nov. 9, which included the national anthem sung by the North Pole High School Choir, a proclamation recognizing first responders by Fairbanks Borough Mayor Bryce Ward, video greetings from Sen. Dan Sullivan, and special awards for 25 first responders. Dessert was compliments of North Pole High School and West Valley High School Culinary Arts students. Numerous community businesses also helped make this evening possible.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.