Living with the Land and Building Community – Future of Alaska Scholarship Award

Photo of Lauryn Nanouk Jones

Sitka Conservation Society (SCS) is excited to announce the award of the Living with the Land and Building Community - Future of Alaska Scholarship to our Environmental Policy intern, Lauryn Nanouk Jones.  

Investing in the next generations and Alaska’s future has been a core part of the work of the Sitka Conservation Society since the organization was founded in 1967. The Sitka Conservation Society has hosted internships for high schoolers and college students for over 20 years. In addition to providing the opportunity for new individuals to come to Alaska and form connections with the natural world of the Tongass, these internships have helped reconnect students that have long connections with the Society themselves, including the grandchildren of one of SCS’s founders, Jack Calvin. For the past decade, Sitka Conservation Society has also worked together with University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension to put on a robust 4-H program to prepare youth with the skill-sets they need to be part of the future of Alaska and learn-by-doing with hands-on education and experiential learning. SCS formalized our internship program in 2019 to support high school interns in their work on environmental policy, rural economic development, and sustainability issues in response to a demand from youth to address the urgency and the increasingly limited timescale needed to take action on climate change problems that are affecting Southeast Alaska as a region and the State as a whole. SCS believes that youth are leading the charge on climate change action to take control and advocate for their future, and we aim to support them in achieving their goals by providing mentorship, materials and resources, and career experience. 

Since October 2021, Lauryn Nanouk Jones has served as an Environmental Policy Intern who works with SCS, and local youth groups such as Youth for Sustainable Futures (YSF) and Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA). Her work has focused on leadership development and advocating for policy changes at the local, state, and federal levels. She has participated in and helped lead the efforts of local youth environmental initiatives by developing strategies and creating actions to engage youth in climate change awareness and advocacy. 

In the fall of 2021 Lauryn wrote and submitted a moving commentary detailing her desire for Alaska elected leadership to heed the concerns and recommendations of the people that live with and depend upon sustainable management of the natural world. Though she noted that her home of Unalakleet and Sitka are very different, she was able to relay her hope for this kind of natural resource protection across Alaska: “My Grandmother used to tell me stories about Unalakleet. She would tell me stories of the times she and my grandfather and their friends drove 60 miles north on the sea ice in a truck to the nearest village of Shaktoolik. I haven’t been able to step onto the actual sea ice and walk more than 15 feet since I was 9. Almost a decade. That was when my family and others were able to set crab pots on the ice. When there was crab for us to harvest…When I first landed in Sitka, I noticed the mountains looming over the city of Sitka. And the hundred-foot-tall cedar trees cover the land. It is all breathtaking. Through my time in Sitka, I have seen the open areas along the trees where trees were harvested by loggers.  I have worked with scientists and researchers in Sitka about ocean acidification in the waters and the effects climate change is having on the oceans ecosystems…both of these places are impacted by climate change. Unalakleet has a long way to go when it comes to fighting climate change, and I feel like I can learn a lot from being in Sitka Conservation Society to help push my community in the right direction. I see what you are doing to try and preserve the Tongass National Forest and that gives me hope.” Throughout her internship, Lauryn has continued to develop and strengthen her voice to speak on her generation’s hopes, fears, and encourage lawmakers to enact policy that responds to the magnitude of the challenges that her generation faces today.

In offering this internship,  SCS aims to develop the skills and abilities of the next generation of Alaskan leaders to learn about about policy related to climate change throughout the region and State, as well as how to advocate for and catalyze social, economic, and environmental policy change at a local, state, and federal level. This scholarship was created to support the future endeavors of the next generation of Alaskan leaders. 

Emily Pound, SCS Community Sustainability Organizer, states, “Lauryn is the first recipient of this scholarship due to her exemplary work in developing her public speaking skills and confidence in order to convey information to her peers and the broader public on climate change and the significance of its impacts to the local community. Lauryn endeavored to use her voice to encourage others to participate in the democratic system with the belief that this system will only meet the needs of future generations if youth are able to speak out and give voice to those priorities.” 

"The MEHS internship program helps students find opportunities to explore their academic and professional interests beyond the classroom," says Tommy Martin, Alaska Fellow at Mt. Edgecumbe High School. "Lauryn reached out early in the year, hoping to find a way to gain more experience working in policy and community resilience. The Sitka Conservation Society seemed like a perfect match for her interests and abilities."

SCS would like to thank Mt. Edgecumbe High School (MEHS) for everything they do for the youth of this state and for investing in a program to continue connecting them with work experience and local organizations. SCS has sincerely valued working with MEHS to host these high school policy internships and are looking forward to continuing to offer this opportunity in the future. 

Please contact SCS for more information on youth internship opportunities, the Living with the Land and Building Community 4-H program, and environmental policy initiatives.