When a diverse group of Alaskans from all over the country gathered last week in Anchorage for the 16th Annual Alaska Forum on the Environment they may not have agreed on solutions for environmental challenges, but they did agree that the KCHS senior who created ROC the Kenai (Respect Our Community) for her Caring for the Kenai Project deserved not only recognition from the President of the United States as the EPA Region 10 winner of the President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) but an early morning standing ovation for her accomplishments. “Courtney is an outstanding example of what we hope to see in youth across America, taking charge of an issue, coming forward and organizing their peers in the community. What Courtney and ROC the Kenai has done is a great example of what the EPA and the President’s award is for. Young people who make their community and the environment a better place for everyone,” said Region 10 EPA Administrator Dennis McLerran who presented Stroh with the PEYA award at the Forum following his keynote address.
In an interview with the Dispatch McLerran added, “It’s great to see leadership like this among the youth of Alaska. Only 10 organizations or individuals from around the country are selected for this recognition each year and it’s an outstanding way to shine a light on the great work that is being done by kids in our communities that provides leadership and is an example of what we hope to see in many more communities across America.” McLerran says that the future for young people wanting to follow environmental careers is positive, “There a lot of great careers in environmental protection everything from working in the public sector to the private sector around environmental engineering so we are glad to see young people showing an interest in the environment and we look forward to them pursuing their passion and leadership skills,” said McLerran.
At a Rotary presentation prior to her trip to Anchorage, Courtney said the improvements on the beach this summer were apparent and made her feel her efforts were making a difference. “It’s tremendous the changes on the beach since I first got the idea for ROC the Kenai as my CFK project when I was a freshman. The beach this past summer was so much cleaner than when I first started. There are dumpsters on the beach; signage that warns people of fines if they don’t take care of their fish waste and those changes have made a big difference. ROC the Kenai will continue when I go to college this year and I have some younger recruits who may even take on some other issues,” said Stroh. Courtney’s Grandmother, Father and Mother accompanied Courtney to the PEYA presentation. “It was a huge honor and I couldn’t believe they gave me a standing ovation. It shows that one person can make a difference if you persevere. I am so grateful to everyone in the community who helped over the year’s ROC the Kenai,” she said.
The deadline for this year’s Caring for the Kenai environmental and natural disaster preparedness competition is Wednesday, February 26th. Caring for the Kenai, now in its 24th year is sponsored by Tesoro and administered by the Kenai Watershed Forum. For more information visit www.caringforthekenai.com .