Having our voices heard in Juneau Spring Break 2017
The 2017 Civics and Conservation Summit started off with a foot of new snow in downtown Juneau and a group of 20 teens from across Alaska. From their base in downtown Juneau, the group spent a week in and out of meetings, hearings, and floor sessions in the capitol.
The delegates jumped right into a meeting with the Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallot on the first day of the Summit. Reviving their ask from years past, the teens pressured the Lieutenant Governor to act now on climate change. They asked him where the administration was with plans they had mentioned a year ago, and urged him to write a public letter with the steps the administration is taking to address climate impacts in Alaska.
The second day of the Summit the teens escaped the busy capitol for a visit to the Mendenhall Glacier ice caves. Exploring 10,000 year ice brought the teens some clarity to what they hoped to achieve for the next 2 days as they planned out their legislative appointments. They also had the opportunity to explore the marine laboratories at UAS.
On the third day of the Summit the teens learned all about testimony. Several delegates testified before the Senate finance committee on the proposal to slash education funding. They also heard from several legislative staff about the ins and outs of the legislature’s ideas for closing our state’s fiscal gap, and sat in on the House floor as Representatives debated and passed the House version of the budget.
Friday, the final day of the Summit, was an early morning for many of the teens as they put the final touches on their talking points for legislative appointments. Everyone met with their Representative and Senator to discuss salmon protections and a sustainable solution to the budget crisis, and some delegates went into many more meetings as well. In between their meetings, the teens showed their skill in art and puns to create signs like “Threatening our salmon runs is IN-SEINE”. At the end of the packed morning everyone headed to the Juneau waterfront, where 50 local Juneau residents joined AYEA for the March for Salmon.
At the March for Salmon, Jasmine Ieuremia from Petersburg spoke to the importance of salmon for her Southeast community. “I seine in the summer for salmon and dungee as well. So do all of our Southeast communities, and a disaster from mines would destroy our economies.” Janie Standifer of Tyonek had the opportunity to speak about her Denaina Athabaskan culture and reliance on salmon. “We are one with the fish,” Janie stated, to cheers from the crowd. Led by AYEA teens, the group walked up to the Capitol building, where they were joined with Representatives Harriet Drummond, Andy Josephson, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, George Rauscher, Dean Westlake, Dan Ortiz, Chris Tuck and Commissioner Chris Hladick for salmon chowder. Representative Justin Parish addressed the crowd, speaking to the importance of engagement in the political process and urging everyone to speak often to their legislators about protecting salmon. Janie wrapped up the March by singing a thank you song.
Late in the final night, the teens shared what they learned and will take back to their communities. Karl Pfieffenberger from Seward, along with many other first time AYEA delegates, noted that he would definitely be calling in to testify on the bills that come up for public testimony. Kaitlyn Phillips of Utqiagvik said, “The most important thing I learned at the training was that youth have a lot of opportunities to get involved in politics and influence decisions of the government.” Jasmine added that, “I’ll follow my interest now because AYEA taught me that I can do what I love and make a difference while doing it.”
So much great press from all of the AYEA delegates and trainers hard work:
Stay tuned to learn how you can support the teens’ efforts!
AYEA’s Youth Delegates are from Utqiaġvik, Seward, Eagle River, Chugiak, Chuathbaluk, Soldotna, Unalaska, Tyonek, Anchorage, Chevak, Homer, Palmer, and Wasilla. You can ‘meet’ all of the 2017 Youth Delegates here.
The Alaska Center’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.
Youth Training Coordinator