Cruise lines, Murkowski donate to youth summit

Summit gives youth chance to debate public policy

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2001

The Cruise Industry Charitable Foundation raised more than $100,000 Thursday for the first Alaska 2001 Youth Summit.

The foundation is a nonprofit group that backs programs aimed at improving the mental and physical health of women and youth.

The benefit, held on the Holland America Line vessel Statendam while it was docked in Juneau, raised $104,000 for the summit including $100,000 from U.S. Sen. Frank Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, and his wife, Nancy.

The Youth Summit, set for Oct. 19-22 in Talkeetna, will bring together 120 high school sophomores and juniors from across the state to discuss issues facing teen-agers, including falling test scores and drug and alcohol abuse.

Groups of teens will dissect problems, determine possible resolutions and discuss their solutions with their hometown policymakers after they leave the summit. Some also will have the opportunity to go to Washington D.C., to propose solutions to Congress.

Gregg Renkes, executive director of the youth summit and a foundation member, said it is important to give young people a voice and encourage them to take an active role in changing the realities they experience.

"Only 35 percent of our high school students go to college. That's the second lowest in the nation. Our state has the worst dropout rate for students in college. In competency scores we are at the bottom of the country, and we have the highest suicide rate," Renkes said. "We want to shine a spotlight on these issues and see what they can come up with."

James Border, president of the charity fund and vice president of the Carnival Corp., said it is important for the cruise industry to back projects like the summit in order to "give back to the communities servicing the cruise ship industry."

Carnival owns six cruise lines, including two that tour Alaska Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Lines.

He said that although the industry as a whole gives nearly $800 million a year to communities, this summit is a rare opportunity for young people to have a direct impact on policy-making.

Murkowski said he was spurred to get involved with this project by a woman who asked him to "help her make her grandson stop sniffing gasoline." After researching it, he realized what a problem inhalants as well as other drugs were for Alaska's youngest constituents and wanted to find a solution, he said.

"I don't know all the answers by any means," Murkowski said. "This is a good opportunity for us to see how they see the world a little differently than we do. It's not going to be by magic that we develop a response to these problems. It will take an effort by everyone."

Teens interested in participating in the summit may obtain an application form at www.akyouthsummit.com. Applications must be postmarked no later than Sept. 5.

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Melanie Plenda may be reached at mplenda@juneauempire.com.



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