Four UCSD high school students travelled to Juneau the first week of March to attend the 2019 Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) Civics and Conservation Summit. James Vuong, Lisa Tran, Denali Adams, and Ellen Yang joined eighteen AYEA youth delegates from fourteen other communities in Alaska. The mission for the AYEA Summit varies based on current events, and this year they arrived at the Capitol to protest proposed budget cuts to education.
AYEA is a program of The Alaska Center that was formed in 1998, but the Unalaska chapter is only a few years old. It is currently led by co-facilitators Kyle Holloway and the Education Outreach Coordinator at the Qawalangin Tribe, Leticia Holloway. The Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska funded most of the travel expenses for the teens.
The first day youth delegates arrived, they filed into the House Finance Sub-Committee on Education and Early Development to advocate for education funding sporting graduation caps. Once settled, the students removed the caps to reveal they had been hand-lettered with a question posed to the legislators: “Are We Worth It?”
James Vuong, a second year AYEA participant made an extra effort to meet with Governor Dunleavy, although the governor had previously declined to meet with the group.
“I had a lot of questions to ask regarding cuts to education, the budget in general, and disbanding the climate action team that Walker had created,” Vuong said.
Vuong waited for over two hours on the governor’s floor at the Capitol and although he did not get a chance to ask his questions, he did meet Commissioner of Education Michael Johnson.
“Although, I didn't achieve my goal of having a meeting with the governor, I do not regret what I did. It was a good experience for me because now Commissioner Johnson knows me and I got to talk to one of his staffers who I thought seemed impressed with me,” Vuong said.
The Unalaska AYEA facillitators were unable to attend the Summit, but the UCSD delegates were chaperoned by staff from the Alaska Center. Chaperone and AYEA Program Coordinator Margi Dashevsky noted to our local facillitators that the Unalaska AYEA chapter is the largest and most active in the state.
The AYEA Delegates this year were from Unalaska, Sterling, Brevig Mission, Galena, Utqiagvik, Homer, Juneau, Fairbanks, Dillingham, Valdez, McCarthy, Anchorage, Palmer, and Wasilla. For more information on the AYEA campaign, visit the Alaska Center website at akcenter.org/ayea.