Making our community better one project at a time

Kudos to Shaylee Rizzo and Courtney Stroh, two teens from the central Kenai Peninsula honored recently for their efforts to make their community a better place.

Stroh, of Kenai, launched the ROC the Kenai program, an effort aimed at educating the visiting dipnetters on things they can do to “Respect Our Community.” Rizzo, of Nikiski, developed a program to teach are children about moose awareness, complete with a children’s book and moose-costumed classroom visits.

Too often, it seems, we don’t have a lot of positive things to say about the youth in our community. They play their music too loud, they’re always texting, they won’t engage others around them in conversation, they’re disrespectful, they’ve got poor manners, their clothes look ridiculous, they aren’t as well educated as they should be — goodness gracious, we sound like our parents!

Look a little closer, though, and we find that we have a community filled with good kids, who are concerned about the world around them and want to contribute to making it a better place.

Rizzo’s and Stroh’s projects grew out of the Caring for the Kenai contest, and annual program that challenges high school students to come up with an idea that addresses the environment or emergency preparedness. While many great ideas have come out of the program, now in its 23rd year, perhaps its biggest benefit has been to foster a culture of community engagement. Other projects have included this summer’s Salmon Run Series races at Tsalteshi Trails to raise money for habitat restoration efforts, the brainchild of Allie Ostrander. Improvements to the Kenai and Kasilof beaches for the personal-use fisheries, elevated streamside walkways for water monitoring, disaster preparedness books for children — just some of the many ideas that are benefitting our community and were dreamed up by contest participants.

To be sure, there are a number of other organizations fostering community service, from school honor societies to church youth groups to the Boys and Girls Club to Scouting programs — the list goes on.

Our point is this: While the youth of today may be operating on a whole different plane, they are, generally speaking, good kids who care about the world around them. Congratulations to Rizzo and Stroh, and our thanks to those of all ages who have contributed to making our community such a great place to live.

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