AYEA Youth Organizer Summit Recap

AYEA  Youth Organizer Summit: 2016 Report-Backinisertimageapplication

Over Labor Day weekend AYEA teens gathered together from all across the state to kick off a year of organizing to protect our salmon habitat. Despite their diverse backgrounds — from city dwellers to residents of communities that rely on subsistence — the teens all agreed: our connection to salmon is vital to our people and we need to do all we can to protect this resource.

  • “Learning the importance and significance of youth voice was very eye opening.” – Olivia Mueller, Eagle River

In the 4 days that the teens spent together, a campaign plan began to form. The first part of the campaign will be protecting Chuitna River from the proposed Chuitna coal mine. The coal strip mine would dig up 14 miles of salmon stream and threaten the salmon source for AYEA teen Janie Standifer’s village. Recognizing the threat that coal poses to both Janie’s home and our climate, AYEA teens rallied to form a plan to stop the mine. Over the next few months AYEA will raise the public opposition needed to pressure state agencies into denying the necessary permits for the mine. With a collective goal of 1,500 petitions from Alaskans, the teens will add to the work that adult organizers have already done to raise public awareness.

  • “No matter what part of Alaska you’re from, or whether or not you depend heavily on fishing, this coal mine will affect us and needs to be stopped.” – Kaitlyn Phillips, Utqiagvik

While halting Chuitna is a big goal in itself, the teens had their eye on creating long lasting positive change for the state. Alaska has been dealing with too many threats to our fish in past years. The teens chose to support legislation that will strengthen our salmon habitat protections and prevent large threats to our valuable salmon runs. For the second phase of their campaign, the teens are going to focus on pushing the legislature to enact a law to strengthen salmon habitat, calling this part of the campaign S.O.S. (Save our Salmon).

  • “I felt empowered by the many diverse opinions and voices that we had in the room and it really reinforced the idea that this work- environmental work- is something that we all, regardless of backgrounds, feel passionate about and want to change.” -Tasha Elizarde, Juneau

AYEA’s Youth Organizers live in Chugiak, Unalaska, Eagle River, Homer, Aniak, Tyonek, Anchorage, Palmer, Chevak, Sterling, Juneau, and Barrow.

AYEA Youth Organizer Summit: 2015 Report-Back

  • “Over the past 14 years we have lost roughly 70 feet of land from storm surges and floods. In Sep. 2015, there was a storm surge that made us lose most of the dump road and now the school bus can’t drive on it. We need to stop climate change to save Shishmaref.”
    – Esau, Shishmaref

During a crisp October weekend, something monumental was happening in the foothills of the Dghelaay tahwt’aene (Ahtna name for Talkeetna Range) – 23 diverse high school students came together from across the state to learn about community organizing, youth power, and climate change. While coming from very different experiences, the young people in the room bonded quickly over their concern about the impacts of climate change and their love of snapchat.

  • “I feel like I made some friends that will last for quite a while and everyone felt like a big family”
    – Roan, Homer, 16

By the time the four days were over, not only did we have a new sense of family and community, but a youth-led plan to chart a new path forward on for our state. The group developed a campaign and committed to taking it back to their communities to spread across the state.

  • “I am 14 years old and attend Bristol Bay High school. For the past 7 years I have not been able to cross our river. We used to cross every year. In the five years to come, we may not have ice at all.”
    – Logan, Naknek

For the first phase of the campaign, the group decided to set an ambitious goal for our state. They will be advocating our state leaders in government and industry to create a plan to reduce carbon emissions 30% by 2030. This reduction in carbon emissions is the least necessary to avert even more disastrous effects of climate change than we are currently seeing. Alaska has the chance to set a bold course forward, and the youth of AYEA will be there to make it happen!

  • “I need people to help speak up for the community and reduce carbon emissions 30% by 2030. Stop climate change!”
    – Grace, Teller, 17

For the second piece of the campaign,  the teens will be working in their communities to walk their talk, identifying ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions in their schools, homes, and throughout their villages.  By starting local, the teens are going to set the example for how a community can be sustainable and ensure a bright future for the next generation.

Stay tuned to learn how you can support the teens’ efforts!

Sign up for Email updates!

Find us on Facebook!

View photos from the summit on Flickr!

AYEA’s Youth Organizers live in Venetie, Shishmaref, Teller, Chevak, Naknek, Aniak, Fairbanks, Anchorage, Unalaska, Kodiak, Homer, Palmer, Wasilla, Sitka, Tok, and Craig.

Alaska Center for the Environment’s mission is to engage and empower Alaskans to protect and conserve the natural resources that support our unique quality of life for current and future generations. Through the Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) program, we are building a movement of diverse young people who have the skills, knowledge, and experience to be effective advocates for their communities.