Care to share? Program readies to reward service

Posted: Monday, February 28, 2005

Marit Hartvigson, a sophomore at Soldotna High School, is excited about a contribution she made to the community.

The winner of last year's Caring for the Kenai competition, Hartvigson raised the funds and organized the labor to build a gate walk at Slikok Creek in Soldotna to prevent bank erosion.

"This project means a lot to me," she said at Wednesday's Kenai Chamber of Commerce meeting.

To prime the pump for the 2005 competition, Caring for the Kenai organizer Merrill Sikorski facilitated a presentation at the chamber luncheon, with Hartvigson and others involved in the program telling how the program has been influential in their lives.

Caring for the Kenai is a competition where high school students compete for cash scholarships by thinking of a project to improve the environment on the Kenai Peninsula.

"It's fun to think about the lives that have changed over the last 15 years," Sikorski said.

The project started out as a one-time endeavor, with $3,000 in prizes, he said. This year there are $16,000 in cash awards for the students' projects and for the classrooms that participate. In addition, there are scholarships available to help students further their educations.

This year, Sikorski said students have been working on projects for months — or even years. This year's project deadline is March 14, with the semi-finalists to be selected March 29.

With the recent tsunami disaster in Asia, Sikorski said he expects many of the projects this year to focus on disaster preparedness since areas of the peninsula are at risk of being hit by a tsunami.

As for the future of the program, the sky is the limit, he said, adding that one day he would like to see this program in schools around the country — or even the world.

"The real value is in seeing the young person put together an idea and seeing and believing they can do it," he said.

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