A New Year In Youth Engagement

With each new year comes new opportunities. Many of us sit down with family, friends, and loved ones to make resolutions: exercise more, eat better, and scroll less. With these resolutions, we want to build a better, brighter future for ourselves. But what about our communities? What resolutions can we make this year to build ourselves and each other up? The answer lies with the present and the future. It lies with young people.

Young people are the next generation of community leaders. They are coming into leadership now through elections, organizing, and programs like AYEA. Although young people are ready to harness their voices and work for their communities, they are frequently left out of vital decision-making. Corporation CEOs, Governors, United States Senators, and people in power making money from big oil avoid facing youth who bear the burden of climate change and climate anxiety. In Alaska, where the arctic is warming at double the global average and communities face more extreme impacts of climate change, this issue is particularly prevalent. Alaska's teens deserve the tools, the network, and the hope to leverage their power against these giants and create a bright future for themselves and their communities. You can help them access it. 

This past fall, 12 young Alaskans gathered in Anchorage for AYEA's annual Youth Organizer Summit to imagine a better future together. Youth Organizers chose and began to plan their statewide project to protect & increase Alaskans' access to local food through action & education. Throughout the pandemic and as climate change impacts worsen, the challenges surrounding food access and Alaska's supply chain have become increasingly evident and extreme, showing that food security and access are significant issues across the state. AYEA Youth Organizers hope to make a difference for their local communities and Alaska through their ongoing project. They have big plans this next year. They will build out local AYEA chapters and raise awareness around the issue of food insecurity and access by bringing attention to food costs and access in rural Alaska. Collectively they will uplift the stories of those most impacted, learn and teach about traditional foods and subsistence practices, provide hunter training, and build greenhouses and community gardens. They will continue their advocacy throughout the year, culminating in Juneau during our annual Civics & Conservation Summit. 

As our ocean rise, our climate becomes more extreme, and our food systems destabilize, leaders continue to invest in false solutions. It's time leaders prioritize youth. It's time they hear the facts and face the truth. 

Alaska Youth for Environmental Action will be helping young people make their voices heard in Juneau at the 2023 AYEA Civics & Conservation Summit. The Civics & Conservation Summit is a unique opportunity for Alaskan teens to travel to Juneau, learn more about the AK State Legislature, connect to their representatives, and impact the passage of bills. The summit breaks down barriers between delegates and the Alaska State Legislature. By focusing on specific bills within the current Alaska State Legislative session, delegates will gain communication, advocacy, and civic participation skills. The summit culminates with constituent meetings between delegates and their legislators - when they can advocate for the bills and topics they care about!

Alaska's young people are smart, creative, and passionate. With the tools, network, and support they deserve, young people can leverage their power and influence positive change for their communities. Any Alaskan teen 13-18 can apply to attend the summit themselves, and adults are encouraged to nominate delegates. 

The new year is a time to be hopeful, and there's good reason to be. At The Alaska Center, we work with inspiring, brilliant young Alaskans working tirelessly towards healthier, happier communities. It's hard not to be hopeful. Help us kick off AYEA's 25th year to a great start, and know that you are an integral part of the fight for a better tomorrow. Join us this year in making a new resolution: to support Alaska's youth in becoming our next generation of community leaders and changemakers. 

P.S. Make good on your promise by nominating a young person today as a delegate to the 2023 Civics & Conservation Summit, March 17-21 in Juneau. 

Nominate a teen by Jan 7th, apply to be a delegate by Jan 15th, or learn more at ayea.org or by emailing [email protected].

The Alaska Center

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