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Seward Strong choose skills classes, Icelandic youth initiative

When thinking about Seward’s future, participants in the third annual Seward Strong Planning Day looked to the past, by choosing to revive peer led skills classes, and abroad, by deciding to implement an Icelandic model of building community to reduce youth substance abuse.  

A group of about 30 community members and volunteers spent Thursday at the Alaska SeaLife Center brainstorming ways to improve the life of Seward residents – starting with 100 ideas and whittling that down to two, a short- and long-term project. Both projects will receive $2,000 from local non-profit and the day’s sponsor, Wellness for All, to jumpstart their ideas. Previous year’s projects include the formation of Sustainable Seward and the community garden at the K.M. Rae Building.

Doug Osborne, from Sitka Health Summit Coalition, facilitated the Seward Strong Planning Day through brainstorming activities and critical reviews of submitted ideas. (Photo by Kat Sorensen)

For this year’s short-term project, participants chose to revive community skills classes — taught by the community for the community.

“This idea has been really exciting for me for a long time. There’s so many experts in this town” said Micheley Kowalski of Wellness for All.

To better the community, the skills classes will promote lifelong, multi-generational learning through peer-led classes. The classes will be a place to share knowledge, stay active and create group connections.

“It’s run in many communities and it’s been done in Seward,” said Josie McClain, a participant in the day’s events. “It’s just about updating it for today.”

The group has more planning ahead of them, though, like finding teachers of different skills, securing the space to hold classes and informing potential students. They’ll be meeting on Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. at Resurrect Coffee House to kickoff the project. All are welcome to attend.  

For the long-term project, participants hope to decrease substance abuse among teens by adopting an Icelandic methodology called Youth in Iceland.

The project, called Seward Community for Youth Initiative, aims to build a community intent on raising stronger youth similar to Youth in Iceland, but with a Seward focus.

Youth in Iceland used legislation and cultural shifts to slash teenage drinking and drug use — from 42 percent of 15- and 16-year-olds reporting being drunk in 1998 to 5 percent in 2016. Methods included setting a curfew for minors, raising the drinking age, educating parents and organizing ways to include kids in groups and activities that produce natural endorphins, rather than turning to drugs and alcohol.

The Seward Community for Youth Initiative is ambitious, but within reach, a combination that the day’s facilitator Doug Osborne of Sitka Health Summit, said is ideal.

“We’re looking for ambitious but doable,” Osborne said. “Something that makes you nervous because it’s so big, because it’s a stretch goal.”

The Seward Community for Youth Initiative will hold their kick-off meeting and potluck at the Seward Community Library on Nov. 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. All are welcome to attend.