Dear AYEA family,
On Friday morning we were on the 4th floor at KNBA’s recording studio, live on the radio sharing our excitement for that evening’s event, our Grassroots Gala: AYEA’s 20th Anniversary Celebration. Lisa, our Dutch Harbor Youth Organizer, and Kengo, a Fairbanks alum, were sharing their excitement for the reunion when the ground beneath us started to buck. We took cover under the desks as CDs cascaded around us, light fixtures fell from the ceiling, and the air filled with dust. As the dust settled, our thoughts quickly turned to our community, and we spent the next hours checking on our alums in transit from across the state.
We were lucky that all of our people were safe and sound. The quake reignited our love for this incredible AYEA community.
While the earthquake did force us to cancel AYEA’s 20th Anniversary Gala that evening, that did not stop us from coming together. Alumni from all points of the globe gathered for pizza, card games, and camaraderie at The Alaska Center office. We shared stories of our times with campaigns, marches, actions, and summits and took a moment to relish the twenty years of connection we all share.
In spite of Mother Nature rockin' our town, I’m proud to report that our AYEA Alumni Reunion the next day was an incredible success. Twenty people gathered in person (folks had flown in before the quake from California, Oregon, Chicago, Dutch Harbor, Juneau & Fairbanks!) and eight people called in (from Kodiak, California, and Massachusetts) to envision and launch an alumni network that will support AYEA’s work long into the future!
Throughout the day, we participated in breakout sessions that included a "story of self" workshop, "art in action" postcard making, and dialogues about environmental justice issues in Alaska, focusing on inclusion and equity in our AYEA program. The day culminated in a full group session to strategize what we can all do as alumni to support AYEA in the years to come.
Despite the quake, alumni poured their unstoppable energy into our first ever reunion. Twenty years of AYEA leaders reimagined how we can continue to grow and thrive and better incorporate social justice into all aspects of our work. Together we were able to have an intergenerational dialog and layout real goals and vision for our alumni network. Moving forward, we have plans for a robust mentorship program and are building an alumni-led sustaining donor network.
Thank you to everyone who was able to make this weekend possible, the next 20 years look brighter because of you all.
I’m humbled and grateful to be part of this remarkable group of Alaskans,
AYEA Program Coordinator
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