There was a "road show" on its way to Juneau to spread the message that full funding of the University of Alaska is an investment that will pay dividends for years to come. That was the message that 14 University of Alaska students traveled 2,275 miles to deliver.
According to Beth Strange, Kenai Peninsula College's Student Union president, a statewide coalition of student leaders have worked on the road show concept since October. The idea was to illustrate to legislative leaders that although the University of Alaska is made up of multiple campuses, there is a common commitment from each one to keep the university strong.
The road show arrived at KPC last Thursday around noon, just in time to enjoy the lunch the KPC Student Union had prepared for the group. Erin McGrath, student spokesperson from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said the general mission of the road show was to deliver almost 3,000 proclamations of support gathered from each of the UA campuses.
KPC was able to gather more than 200 of the bright yellow, "Minds at Work" cards that served as the vehicle for gathering constituent signatures. The students will continue to collect signatures of support throughout the legislative session. If you are interested in supporting the student mission, call the KPC Student Union at 262-0339.
When questioned about why this trip was organized, the students had plenty to say. Full funding of UA's budget request will ensure that existing programs remain strong enough to compete with what outside colleges offer. One student from Fairbanks, majoring in civil engineering, commented that he has seen what past budget cuts did to the department. When field trips to "real world" sites are canceled and all lessons come from a book, essential elements of the educational experience diminish. In the end, the state and the businesses that would employ these graduates suffer. In order to keep students from looking elsewhere for higher education, the university has to offer competitive programs.
As one student put it, "You can't hold it against a student for looking for the best possible program, even if it means leaving the state."
Another road trip student made the point that even though the university has a large raw land allotment from the state, you can't pay top-notch professors with land.
After reaching the end of the road at KPC's Kachemak Bay Campus, the student coalition turned around and headed for Haines to catch the ferry.
All the students will participate in the 17th annual Alaska Student Legislative Conference sponsored by the University of Alaska Southeast. The three-day conference will include workshops and speakers that will provide guidance in how to become politically empowered. Students will be matched up with UA alumni to form teams whose mission will be to visit with individual legislators to encourage support of the proposed budget.
One thing is certain, these UA students truly believe in what they are doing. They want to stay in their home state and receive the best available education. KPC is proud of the efforts of all the students who are making this trip. They symbolize the future of Alaska.
This column is provided by Suzie Kendrick, community relations coordinator at Kenai Peninsula College.
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