For twenty five years AYEA has activated, guided, & supported Alaska’s next generation of leaders. This year has been no exception. On Thursday, March 17th, thirteen young adults, ages 13-18, kicked off a week full of learning, exploration, and advocacy in the 2023 AYEA Civics & Conservation Summit.
Civics Summit delegates gathered from communities across Alaska, as far southeast as Kake to northwest as Kotzebue. Meet our delegates here! This year, the group had the opportunity to learn how a bill becomes law, walk the streets of downtown Juneau, explore the capitol building, celebrate upholding the Roadless Rule with SEACC, sit down with Congressional Representative Mary Peltola, and enjoy taco night with State Representative Alyse Galvin. Delegates and Trainers alike were honored to hear a true history of Alaska from native elders Della Cheney and President Joel Jackson of the Organized Village of Kake. Below is our day-by-day progression, and some highlights!
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Friday, March 17 - Day 1
Our first day of the Civics & Conservation Summit was a blast and a half! Our delegates explored the challenges and strengths of being a youth changemaker, and found out how a bill becomes a law by role playing a House floor session to pass their own bills; every Alaskan must learn how to play the saxophone! Youth Organizers interviewed with KTOO, delegates chose their own focus bills, then met with sponsors in a first effort to form their opinions as bill groups. We finished off the day with sourdough pancakes with Gail Cheney, The Alaska Center Education Fund Board Member!

Josie as Rep. Tom McKay, presiding over an amendment to a (fake!) bill to mandate saxophone lessons.

Renewable Energy Grant Fund Focus Bill Group Members after their Sponsor Meeting.

Youth Peer Trainer Josh Pak as a part of the Sourdough Pancake crew.

    Saturday, March 18 - Day 2
    Delegates shared their opinions in focus bill groups to decide whether they’d support, oppose, or ask for amendments to their bill. They chose strategies after learning how to read a bill, where their bill was in the legislature, how to find their legislators and the legislators with the most power over their bill. We also examined the role conservation has had in colonization. For fun, we visited the Mendenhall Glacier, delegates each spoke at the SEACC Roadless Rule Celebration Potluck, and everyone shared stories at a cultural night led by Gail Cheney, Della Cheney, and Joel Jackson!

    From left to right: Lydia, Josie, CQ, Isabelle, Joshua, and Marcus in front of the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center Sign

    The crew after a hike out to the waterfall!

      Sunday, March 19 - Day 3
      We were abuzz with activity, morning to night. Just before an evening s’mores bonfire at Auke Rec, delegates sat down with Congressional Representative Mary Peltola to chat about everything from leadership pathways to The Ambler Road Proposal and the approved Willow Oil Project. Just before that, focus bill groups mapped out their constituent meeting game plans, and practiced them as if their legislators were busy, indifferent, oppositional, or not there. They visited Cope Park and the governor’s mansion, heard from fellow delegates Isabelle & Ashley on how to talk to officials about climate change, and thought about current systems of power and how to keep the helpful aspects while changing the hurtful ones. They made posters displaying their visions for a Just Transition in Alaska, thinking about aspects of harmful economies and helpful economies. Finally, they practiced staying on topic in messaging and persuasion tactics by deftly redirecting diversions from peers. It was all-in-all a challenging, rewarding, and fun-filled day.

      Sitting down with Representative Mary Peltola

      cheesin’ with Rep. Peltola

      From left to right: Jacob, Ethan, & Gail roast marshmallows to perfection.

        Monday, March 20 - Day 4

        Our final day of the Civics & Conservation Summit left our hearts warm, our eyes teary, our spirits inspired. On this day, all their training, practice, hope, and values sharing culminate; focus bill groups met with key decision makers, individual delegates met with their own legislators, we attended a House floor session (where teens were rewarded in seeing the Renewable Energy Grant Fund renewal pass!), and finally we debrief the day, closed out the Summit, sharing heartfelt notes with one another.

        Teens also toured the capitol, heard from Representative Alyse Galvin, interviewed with Hello Alaska about their experience in the Summit, got to see and hold cedar woven items from Tsimshian & Tlingit Trainer Heather Evoy, Suella got an internship lead, Taralynn testified in support for an anti-discrimination bill, and after all of this, Rep. Galvin welcomed us to a taco night at her home, where teens and trainers were grateful to eat a warm, homemade meal and enjoy an ice cream bar alongside Representatives Genevieve Mina, Maxine Dibert, CJ McCormick, & Donna Mears (a former AYEA Mentor!). We laughed, played AK History trivia, told stories of the day, Ethan napped hard, we shared what we most love about Alaska, took silly pictures, and we got to end our Summit with big dreams, knowing we had done our best in Juneau as staff, trainers, delegates, and regular people sharing one future all together in our state. With another cohort of AYEA teens making change, we are honored to have seen them find the power in their voices as a collective, and we’ll be privileged to see them build an Alaska they need and want from here on out.  

        Delegates at the steps of the Capitol Building

        From left to right: Suella, Ethan, Isabelle, Josie, Ashley, CQ, & Taralynn, practicing for their futures as House Resources Committee Members

        Taco night with Representatives Galvin, Mina, Dibert, McCormick, & Mears.