Homer High School students attend spring state student council meeting in Utqiagvik

The Alaska Association of Student Governments held their spring conference at Barrow High School in Utqiagvik from April 18-21. The theme of the conference was “Tapurriñiq Allaŋŋuutauruq” (in Iñupiaq) or “Inclusion Ignites Change.”

Three Homer students: senior Spencer Co, senior Ella Davis and junior Raquel Goldman attended with language arts teacher Leo Dykstra, who also supervises the high school student council.

Before Co and Goldman began talking about features of the state council, they mentioned some of the geographical features of Utqiagvik.

“It was about 28 degrees when we got arrived in the community and then it never got above 5 degrees after that and we had a very long flight delay on the way home due to ice fog.”

The students also mentioned how much more daylight they observed in the Arctic compared to Homer.

The AASG hold two state conferences each school year; this one was smaller than usual due to the remote travel and fewer accommodations available than in other communities.

About 201 students from around the state arrived in the late afternoon of April 18 with icebreaker activities, a scavenger hunt and an opening ceremony with Pausauraq Harcharek. A long-time director of Iñupiaq Education in Utqiagvik, she is now retired. She was joined with the Barrow High School students, community speakers and Iñupiaq dance groups.

Goldman noted that even though there were fewer students participating than usual there were more students from very remote locations. She noted Unalaska, Sand Point, King Cove and communities from Southeast Alaska had representation at the event. This state conference was smaller than usual because they had to cap registration due to flight and accommodation capacities, Co said.

On the following days, the students participated in region meetings to discuss resolutions that students brought with them and general assembly meetings. Homer High School is in ASAA Region III with other schools on the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak, some Matanuska-Susitna region schools and some Anchorage schools.

“We discussed, debated and amended all of these resolutions and ultimately put them to a vote,” Co said. “There were a lot of really interesting resolutions presented. The most obvious one that Francis Myers presented to inflation proof the BSA was passed unanimously and a letter will be sent to the state Legislature showing student support.”

This is Resolution #5, and is available for view on the AASG website at https://aasg.org/conferences/spring-conference/.

It reads, “Be it Resolved by the Alaska Association of Student Governments that: AASG supports an inflation proof Base Student Allocation (BSA).”

Several other resolutions were also related to Alaska legislative issues.

“Lanthrop wrote one supporting House Bill 202, which argued for having Naloxone-trained staff at schools,” Co said.

The resolution was submitted by Alaska students Jeremiah Bayles and Luois Amora.

Official wording in the student Resolution #14 reads: “Whereas, Naloxone is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. It is an opioid antagonist. This means that it attaches to opioid receptors and reverses and blocks the effects of other opioids; 2. Whereas, resolution #2 for this spring’s 2024 AASG conference was passed to support HB 202.”

The phrasing in this resolution is taken from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website related to Naloxone. It was sponsored in 2024 in the Alaska House by Reps. DeLena Johnson, R-Palmer, and Genevieve Mina, D-Anchorage.

A second resolution that was sponsored by the executive board of the AASG that passed in the spring meeting is in support of the Alaska Senate Bill 88.

The resolution reads, “An Act relating to the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Alaska and the teachers’ retirement system; providing certain employees an opportunity to choose between the defined benefit and defined contribution plans of the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Alaska and the teachers’ retirement system; and providing for an effective date,” on the Alaska State Legislature website.

Co said there were a total of 17 Resolutions presented and 16 of them passed. The failed resolution would have implemented statewide virtual meetings for all of the presidents of high school student councils from around the state. “It was just ultimately decided that it would be too logistically challenging,” Co said. Co is the current Homer High School president.

“They all really were good Resolutions,” Goldman said. “Then, at our regions meetings we elected new executive board members for our region.

“But, in addition to student council, there were a lot of other activities. There were a lot of Alaska Native activities like drumming, cooking, coloring, beading and storytelling. It was pretty cool.”

According to the AASG website schedule, there was also sledding and a basketball tournament. There was a dance for the students the night before the last day of the conference.

The students mentioned other landscape and climate features of visiting Utqiagvik. Even though it was cold, they were able to spend some time exploring the community.

“It was also very interesting just to see the town,” Co said. “I expected it to be cold just because of where it was located but the amount of snow everywhere was impressive. It felt like 4 feet of snow covering everything. All of the houses were built on stilts. You would walk around and see the cars that people hadn’t moved that year and they were completely buried.”

“The stilts were crazy, it was like the whole town was ready for snow all year. I didn’t walk on the Arctic Ocean but Spencer, Ella and Mr. Dykstra did,” Goldman said. “It was just frozen for miles, all you could see were ice wisps.”

The council meets twice each year and the fall 2024 event will be held in Delta Junction. Dykstra explained that the fall conference is always on the road system and the spring conference is off the road system. Spring location will be announced at the fall conference.