In 1991, the Association of Alaska School Boards re-imagined itself and re-focused its mission around “advocating for the shared responsibility of educating Alaska’s children and youth.” In acknowledging and promoting the notion that it takes more than families and schools and programs working in separate spheres to effectively support young people, we started a journey of change that is ongoing.
When AASB’s Alaska Initiative for Community Engagement was created in 2001 with federal funding, it was a small collaboration of like-minded partners with a big idea. That idea was to look beyond the problems that faced many young people and the programs that were targeted at these problems, and to find out what made young people resilient and successful—what it took to “help kids succeed.”
The answer of course is that what young people need most is supportive relationships with adults, and that everyone has a role in building healthy communities and healthy youth. It is through shared responsibility and intentional actions by each of us that lasting community change is possible.
Growing the base of advocates for youth around the state has been the mission of Alaska ICE. Our partnering with many local, regional, and statewide entities, in addition to schools and school districts, has broadened the web of support for Alaska’s young people.
Involving youth directly in schools and communities, giving them meaningful roles, and providing opportunities for them to learn and practice leadership skills is a key element of effective school reform and successful community engagement.
Alaska ICE continues to focus on increasing opportunities for youth involvement in governance and organizational decision-making. At AASB’s annual Youth Leadership Institute and Youth Advocacy Institute, Alaska ICE works directly with students from across the state to develop their leadership and advocacy abilities.
Spirit of Youth radio stories are based on nominations from the public and are shared with media around Alaska, including Alaska Public Radio. This positive media campaign addresses negative stereotypes of teens and improves adults’ awareness of how teens contribute to their communities.
Youth Engagement refers to the multiple ways young people become actively and meaningfully involved in their schools, communities, faith organizations, and in the issues and causes they care deeply about. Youth Engagement calls for a range of opportunities and roles for participation.
We divide engagement into three main areas: Youth in Governance and Organizational Decision Making, Youth Activism, and Youth as Change Agents. Learn more here.
Youth-led Community Service Projects
Alaska ICE is proud of the opportunity to provide funding for community engagement projects that team youth with adults and schools with communities. Eligible projects involve youth-adult partnerships that plan and implement community-based service activities. Youth-adult partnerships are characterized by youth working with one or more adults through a faith-based or other community-based organization.
Requests for proposals go out three times a year: fall, winter, and summer. A few past projects include:
• Students and adults in the community of Seward created a very large mural entitled “Trees Give Us Life” from handmade tiles. It is now installed on the outside wall of Seward Elementary School.
• Students in Fairbanks worked with Fairbanks Quilters to make pillows for seniors living at the Pioneer Home.
• Youth and adults at Rhema Samoan Assemblies of God in Anchorage planned a July 4th celebration called “Empowering Our Youth.”
• A group of youth and adults created a school garden in Copper Center to use as a teaching tool for K-12 students.
• In Coffman Cove, young people helped senior citizens with outdoor chores and pressure washed their decks.