For years, the Civic and Conservation Summit has fostered the next generation of leaders. This year has been no exception. On Tuesday, March 6, twenty-six students kicked off a week full of learning, exploration, and advocacy for their community.

The Civics Summit delegates gathered from communities across Alaska, from Galena to Unalaska, Ketchikan to Brevig Mission. This year, the group had the opportunity to learn how a bill becomes law, to walk through the streets of downtown Juneau, and to explore the capitol building, The Juneau Douglas City Museum, and the governor's mansion. They also heard from several voices of the conservation movement: the executive director of SEACC, Meredith Trainor; Fred Olsen of the Organized Village of Kasaan; and a panel of AYEA Alumni currently working in the capitol.

The first day was a whirlwind of training that set the tone for the week's activities

Tuesday marked the beginning of the Summit, as delegates dove into advocacy work and shared their passions and vision for the future. They brought together the issues they saw in their own communities to strengthen presentations for lawmakers. They were briefed in policy and bill development. They took these steps together and began to form important connections with one another as Alaskan youth leaders.

It was great to explore our state capitol with new friends

Delegates spent the majority of their Wednesday in the capitol building learning about the legislature and seeing where they would be able to advocate and interact with their lawmakers. Afterwards, delegates geared up to head out to visit the University of Alaska Southeast campus and the Mendenhall Glacier for a quick snowball fight.

A table full of leaders

Thursday, delegates spent the morning preparing for one on one meetings with each of their bill sponsors. That afternoon, delegates had the honor of meeting with Governor Walker to discuss Net Neutrality and its effects here in Alaska. The governor acknowledged the importance of youth voices in the conversation surrounding this crucial issue: "currently we are focusing on developing a youth lead network where they will have the opportunity to serve as guides for the issues related to Net Neutrality in the state of Alaska." That night, delegates were visited by Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins who joined them for dinner and talked to delegates about their interests both in the legislature, and in future career choices.

A salmon picnic is the best way to end a week of Alaskan activism

Delegates greeted the final day early, as they made made final preparations for legislative appointments with both their Representatives and Senators to discuss issues of school budgets, wolf trapping near Denali National Park, Climate Change, locally grown food, and more. At lunchtime Senators and Representatives joined AYEA outside the Capitol for an annual Salmon Picnic. As lawmakers and citizens ate, delegates took the opportunity to explain the ways that salmon are vital in both their lives and cultures. Delegates also presented Representative Louise Stutes with 200 Alaskan youth signatures in support of HB 199 for updated salmon habitat protections. The afternoon closed on a strong note, as delegates McJun Nobleza, Zebediah Sheldon, and Olivia Olson testified before the House Resources Committee to protect children from toxic, flame retardant chemicals.

The AYEA Civics & Conservation Summit provides valuable learning and experiential opportunities, but the most valuable of these is the opportunity to learn just how powerful your voice can be. This year’s delegates represent and advocate for communities and cultures all over Alaska. With their passion and confidence, we have hope in a bright future for our great state.

This experience wouldn't be possible without support from passionate Alaskans like YOU!


See More:
Flickr for photos

AYEA community leaders support HB 199
The Cordova Times

High school environmentalists bring youth voice to the Capitol
Juneau Empire