University sponsors forum of concerned young Alaskans

This past weekend, hundred of young people convened at the new Dena’ina Convention Center to discuss topics related to Alaska’s past, present, and future and what role they will play.

Approximately 400 young people took part in the video teleconference from locations across the state including: Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka, Nome, Dillingham, Homer, and Kodiak.

The overall description of the Forum of Young Alaskans is somewhat ambiguous to say the least.

“The [FYA] was created to begin a dialogue about topics and areas important to Alaska,” said Joseph Hardenbrook, the Steering Committee chairman for the Forum.

The forum was sponsored by the University of Alaska with major financial contributions from AT&T Alascom.

UAA not only sponsored the event, but also held a video competition for a one-semester tuition waiver.

“People between the ages of 16-25 were contacted through Facebook, Myspace, class presentations and fliers to attend the forum,” said Maggie Grega, who sits on the Steering Committee.

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The conference began with short speeches by dignitaries such as UA President Mark Hamilton and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.

“I am glad you all are here making a difference on issues important to young people,” said Begich. “Discussing such topics as the environment, energy, the economy, and the war is important, because they affect you.”

After the opening statements, those in attendance were then formed into groups to work on questions related to the designated topics: Alaska’s past, present and future.

The goal was not to have those who attended to come up with broad generalizations, but specific answers.

“Looking at questions like ‘what are you doing and what can you do to address the challenges in your community?’ don’t come up with a general answer, pick something you specifically can do in your community to have a positive impact,” said Hardenbrook.

Andy Christopherson, a recent graduate of Georgetown University, also attended the Forum.

“A friend invited me,” Christopherson said. “I am glad I attended, I think this is an interesting concept, because it brings together an interesting demographic: high school students, college students and young professionals, to find solutions to current problems we are facing.”

Not only did the attendees share with one another through the live video teleconference, but answers to the discussed topics were put up on the Young Alaskans Web site, pictures were put up on Flickr and text messages on Twitter.

The answers collected from the forum will be used to at the Conference of Young Alaskans to solve problems currently facing Alaska and will be presented to groups such as the Alaska Legislature.

In January, the Conference of Young Alaskans will be hosted in Alyeska. Fifty-five young people from across the state will be chosen to represent the youth of the state as a whole.