PALMER — While many children and teenagers will be celebrating Halloween night, hundreds of student leaders from every part of the state will travel to Palmer High School to advocate for students’ voices concerning the ongoing issues within Alaska on Thursday. Palmer High School is hosting the fall conference of the Alaska Association of Student Governments for the second time.
Forrest Davis, AASG Vice President and a student at Juneau-Douglas High School, believes that AASG has, “the power to affect a school, a district, a community, a city, a state, a nation, and the world.”
Students from all over the state congregate together and debate resolutions written by students. Those resolutions could aim to fix any issue whether it be about one school, one borough, or the entire state. In the 2017 spring conference held by Thunder Mountain High School, Wilfred Zibell, a former student at Noorvik High School, introduced a resolution that supported House Bill No. 115 with details explaining the structure of the bill and how it would affect Alaskans. AASG passed Zibell’s resolution. One year before that conference, Palmer High introduced a resolution concerning the poor locker situation that they had.
In the resolution it stated that, “the floors of the Palmer High School lockers are rotting and do not have the proper support.”
The Palmer High delegation said that for 15 years the students were promised new lockers, yet never received any. After their resolution passed unanimously, the Palmer student body finally got the renovation they needed to their school in the summer of 2017.
The Palmer High Student Government felt inspired by the student advocacy from the spring 2018 conference hosted by Tri-Valley School which drove them to host AASG this year, according to Bailee Petersen, one of the registrars for this upcoming conference and senior at Palmer High School.
“I was immediately attracted to the energy and spirit of all the delegates and their passion to make change in their schools and districts,” Petersen said.
Each AASG conference follows a typical pattern in which students can present, debate and amend resolutions, participate in workshops that teach students vocational and leadership skills and educational lessons. Students can also participate in community explorations and experience the varying cultures from different parts of the state at each conference. Students from the far reaches of Alaska can get a sense of what Palmer and the Valley are like.
AASG’s mission is “to provide leadership training, communication, and a student voice of issues at the local, state and national levels.”
One student’s voice can only go so far. When a student wants to fix an issue, AASG can provide additional support for their argument. That support can come from 150-member high schools around Alaska and through delegation sizes that have exceeded 500 students. With numbers like that, resolutions can be arduously amended by many students with diverse opinions and experiences, and if passed it could show a wide range of support.
Managing that many delegates along with advisors can be a massive feat.
“Since we began planning this conference, it has been quite the whirlwind,” Petersen said.
Petersen along with the other registrars and advisors began planning their conference during summer break. Now that school is in session, the whole Palmer Student Government meets frequently throughout the week to hash out all the details that go into hosting hundreds of students like catering, sleeping arrangements, guest speakers and costs.
Valley schools have hosted AASG six times in the last 26 years. Colony High hosted the fall 1993 conference under the theme “Ignite the Light of Hope.” Wasilla High has hosted three conferences: the fall of 1999, fall of 2012 and fall of 2016. Both Houston High and most recently Mat-Su Career and Technical High hosted once, in the spring of 1995 and the fall of 2017.
Anthony Jones is a senior at Mat-Su Career and Technical High School and is a Frontiersman intern for the 2019-2020 school year.