President’s Environmental Youth Awards 2006 Recipients | Region 10 | US EPA

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President’s Environmental Youth Awards 2006 Recipients

AYEA Global Warming Outreach and Education Project

Alaska Youth for Environment Action

Anchorage, Alaska

EPA Region 10

The Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA), a group of committed teens, is making a notable impact through a statewide global warming outreach and education project. AYEA is a high school program of the National Wildlife Federation. During a “Summer Get Together” training, AYEA teens gathered in Homer, Alaska, to learn about the impacts of global warming in Alaska, the science behind the greenhouse effect, and how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

At the end of this event, AYEA graduate Verner Wilson wrote a “Letter to Our Leaders” describing the devastating impacts of global warming on Alaska and requesting national action through legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest in renewable energy.

Other AYEA members turned Verner’s letter into a statewide youth petition and developed an educational presentation on global warming. AYEA chapter youth leaders gave the presentation to more than 300 science and social studies classrooms and received an endorsement from the Spirit of Youth Foundation, affording the petition even more statewide representation. AYEA students collected 5,000 teen signatures from 105 communities in Alaska, which represents more than 10 percent of the enrolled high school population.

During April 2006, teens from Dillingham, St. Michael, Anchorage, and Yakutat traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional leaders to discuss global warming. They presented their petition to Senator Lisa Murkowski, who requested that AYEA members meet with climate change specialists in Fairbanks to bridge the “science and public awareness” divide. A group of the teens then traveled to Fairbanks and worked with scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks to educate 25 rural Alaska Native college students about global warming.
AYEA teens also worked locally to raise awareness about global warming. During the 2006 Civics and Conservation Summit, 15 AYEA teen leaders promoted legislation to create an Alaska Climate Change Impact Commission. The teens successfully lobbied for a youth seat on the commission and met with 20 legislators to promote other bills supporting alternative energy projects.

AYEA teens introduced a Climate Change Resolution at the Alaska Association of Student Governments Conference in April 2006. Four hundred teens from 20 communities unanimously adopted the resolution, demanding action at the state legislative level. AYEA members hope to push this resolution forward during the 2007 Civics and Conservation Summit. A team of AYEA members held a press event with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich to announce initiatives to curb greenhouse gas emissions in the city. AYEA members also presented the petition to the Juneau Assembly and asked for a local model of emissions reduction within the next year.

Through this project, AYEA was able to engage 500 percent more young people in 1 year with environmental issues and five times as many youth than have been engaged in the program’s history.

The project has already sparked some 15 media stories on statewide television, national public radio, and national and local newspapers. Teachers throughout the state continue to ask for the youth global warming presentation. Teens who have received the presentation have since started two new AYEA chapters, motivating even more young people to become involved with health and environmental issues.

Two mayors have now signed the Mayor’s Climate Change Protection Agreement, both referring to the student drive on this issue as a motivating factor in their decision. Anchorage Mayor Begich, who hosted a climate change conference for 33 mayors from all over the nation, asked AYEA member Megan Waggoner to deliver a keynote address. The response was overwhelming. Several mayors inquired whether they could learn about AYEA and how the youth in Alaska are making such an impact.

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