“There are so many issues, and together we can solve them and find solutions and alternatives; it’s okay if you’re just a kid, you can still make a huge difference.” Nyabony Gat, Anchorage
Nyabony and 19 other teens from across Alaska descended on Juneau for a week to build their understanding of how the legislative process works and how they can use their voices to influence change. Teens strengthened their skills in public speaking, analyzing controversial issues, communicating with people who disagree with you, and connecting with peers from a range of different backgrounds and life experiences.
“I used to not know too much about politics and I didn’t really pay much attention, but at the Summit I learned so much and now I just want to keep learning more about politics.” -Charla Francis, Arctic Village
Of the 20 teens, five were returning for their second (or third) time at the Summit, serving as Youth Trainers. These teens chose the issues for the group to focus on, studied these issues before the summit, and led small group workshops to educate the rest of the group. This year the teens focused on local food and toxic chemical issues, specifically: SB 151 – High Risk Chemicals for Child Exposure, sponsored by Sen Olson; HB 201- Pesticides and Broadcast Chemicals, sponsored by Rep Gara; and two operating budget items: the Nutritional Alaskan Foods in Schools Program and the Farm to School Program.
“The specifics of the legislative process that I learned with AYEA, both the official and unofficial aspects, have done so much to help me see how to be effective in politics.” -Tristan Glowa, Fairbanks
The summit culminated with a day of action. Each teen had the opportunity to speak face to face with the political leaders of our state, advocating for their focus issues. Each teen met with their senator and their representative, which added up to 30 meetings in one day! At lunch, AYEA held a Wild Salmon Barbecue and presented the Legislator of the Year Awards to Senator Donny Olson (D-Rural), Rep. Bill Stoltze (R-Mat Su), Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Southeast), and former Rep. Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau).
“Coming back to Fairbanks after talking with State senators and representatives, testifying in front of the school board or the Borough Assembly seems to me like nothing at all. You have helped me take an amazing step in confidence. Preparing to talk to people like Coghill and Wilson has made me confident that I can effectively defend my views in front of people who disagree with me.” -Kengo Nagaoka, Fairbanks
Click here for a photo slideshow of the summit highlights!
Huge thanks to all of AYEA’s supporters who made the summit possible. Special shout out to adult volunteers Brandon Hill, George Pletnikoff, and Melissa Heuer; and travel scholarship donors: Andy Moderow, Ann Rappoport, Charles Treinen, Dave Theriault, Deborah Williams, Denali Citizens Council, Gene White, Harry Crawford, Jeevan Pokhard, Laurie Holland, Lindsey Hajduk, Mark Begich, Marsha Holbrook, Megan McBride, Nick Moe, Sam and Liz Snyder, Valerie Waldrup, and Will McBride.