Letter to the Editor: Visiting Juneau, students push for ferry improvements

From left, students Maya Russin and Mia Siebenmorgen at the Alaska State Capitol. Photo courtesy of Mia Siebenmoregen

Every year, two students are selected to attend the Legislative & Leadership Fly-In & Youth Advocacy Institute in Juneau. This year I attended with junior Maya Russin, from Feb. 8-11. We were accompanied by Debra Adams and Pete Hoepfner.

The first two days, Feb. 8 and 9, were focused on collaboration between students, learning how to testify and brainstorming issues that similar sized school districts faced. These days prepared us for advocacy on the hill, where we met with legislators. Along with voicing Cordova’s struggles with ferry service, Maya and I addressed some of the good things about our school including small class sizes, dual-enrollment, Advanced Placement options, and devoted teachers. Our last day in Juneau corresponded with protests for ferry reinstatement. People affected by the ferry crisis rallied outside the capitol and various representatives spoke on the mismanagement of AML.

One experience that will stick with me involved Rep. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan. We met with Rep. Ortiz on our first day in the Capitol and focused on the issue of the ferry. During this meeting, I mentioned the Aurora Music Festival (which Cordova is hosting this year) and how much harder and more expensive it is for schools to get here with the lack of ferry service. Later that day, we attended the Senate Finance Committee meeting. Soon after Rep. Ortiz saw us walk in, he mentioned the Aurora Music Festival in his question to the AML representatives. Both Maya and I felt heard in this moment, and as though our perspectives mattered. The 2020 Legislative & Leadership Fly-In allowed me to practice being civically engaged, a lifelong skill that cannot be taught in school alone. Thank you to Mrs. Adams, Pete Hoepfner and the Cordova School District for making this trip possible.

Mia Siebenmorgen
Cordova Jr./Sr. High School student

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