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Alaska Youth for Environmental Action
My summer internship with Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) was spent working in the office of the National Wildlife Federation under the guidance of the two full time employees of the program who run the program year round. There were 3 other interns, each working on a separate project. My position was the “Summer Institute Coordinator” where I worked in coordinating the annual summer training that AYEA hosts for teens across the state. The “Summer Institute” was a week long training that taught Alaskan youth how to express their environmental concerns and stories in a medium of art, music, audio, or video. The training was thus combined as there was media training as well as traditional environmental education on issues prevalent to Alaska, such as climate change, recycling and waste, and renewable energy.
My role was to organize the different levels of this training. The logistics of the training, as well as the educational portion which included training peer leaders (previous participants of AYEA trainings which dedicate time to teaching peers at AYEA trainings) in how to facilitate and teach other teens. This also included organizing curriculum and working with the peer leaders and adults involved. The other portion of my job was to build group relationships between the different actors of the groups. For example hosting and facilitating meetings between art and media teachers, as well as the environmental/AYEA side. During the actual week my role was as main logistics and coordinator of training events and schedules in addition to being an adult mentor for the youth participants and peer leaders.
Other aspects of my internship included participating in the annual AYEA fundraising event, where $35,000 was raised by approximately 3 people by phone calling, personal invites, attendance to the event, and a live and silent auction that took place at the event. I also attended a donor event where large corporate donors interviewed organizations to see what the potential was for donation.
The final duty of my internship was to interview an Alaskan youth for a book called Youth Renewing the Countryside. The story I wrote highlighted the life of Joe Okitkun, a Yupik Eskimo living in rural Alaska as he tries to fit his own environmental values into the larger picture of environmental activism and engagement.
The skills that I gained from the internship included a newfound respect for the grass-roots organization. The lack of funding and use of volunteer support only can be limiting in terms of the scope of projects and campaigns. I also learned that cooperation between non-profit organizations can lessen the burden that the organizations would have to bear on their own.
I learned a great deal about environmental education of teens and specifically Alaskan youth. It was clear that the combination of both media and environmental issues proved to be exciting for the youth and encouraged their involvement with activism. It was also clear that finding an understanding for the issues was relatively easy, especially with the success of the peer-to-peer teaching method. The youth were incredibly engaged.
I would like to work for Alaska Youth for Environmental Action again, should the opportunity arise. It is the only organization that works with rural youth or environmental education in the state. Thus, it really provides a vital avenue for many youth of Alaska. Without AYEA there would be no mode of educating youth on issues that must be discussed if we are to create any type of positive change. I also believe that working with the age group of teens is developmentally a crucial time because you can really cement environmental values during this time, and AYEA definitely does exactly this.