A panel of eight judges from the professional community spent all day Tuesday reading, scoring, and viewing graphic supplements in the 15th annual Caring For the Kenai (CFK) environmental awareness contest. From more than 450 entries less than 100 made it to the semi-finalist round of judging. From those the judges had to come up with their favorite 12 to compete for over $16,000 in cash awards in the oral presentation phase of the competition. .
Jane Stein and retired police chief Shirley Gifford examine one of the CFK entries at Tuesday's council-woman judging.
The program sponsored by Unocal Alaska and Agrium Kenai Nitrogen Products offers cash awards to the best twelve proposals addressing the prompt, "What can I do, invent, or create to better care for the environment on the Kenai Peninsula, or to improve the area's preparedness for a natural disaster?" Participating schools this year included Kenai, Nikiski, Soldotna, Skyview, Seward, and Ninilchik "The quality of the entries this year was much higher on an overall basis, it made reducing it to12 tough, and the next panel of judges is going to have a very difficult job ahead of them," said Tim Johnson, Technical Services Superintendent for Agrium, and a member of the proposal judges panel. "Some very unusual ideas this year, not so much high-tech power point but more creative thinking that took a lot of blood, sweat and tears type of effort to come up with. To see this process is why Unocal enjoys being involved with the Caring For the Kenai program each year, we're really proud of all these kids who entered," said Roxanne Sinz, Unocal Alaska Manager of Public Affairs, and one of the CFK proposal judges. "Being involved as a parent of a former CFK participant who went through this process about 6 years ago it was interesting seeing how the judging process works out on this side of the contest. It was a fun day and the essays were very impressive," said Shirley Gifford, former Soldotna Chief of Police. "You have a strong group of 12 finalists here and the oral presentations will be fun and extremely interesting," added Gary Turner, Kenai Peninsula College Director and Kenai River Sportfishing Assoc. (KRSA) board member. Last year KRSA gave five $500 scholarships to CFK participants in addition to contributing $5,000 toward the schoolroom cash awards.
The educational partnership is part of the KPBSD science curriculum. Each year Agrium, Unocal and KRSA grant $500 cash to schools assigning the project to offset classroom expenses or to purchase needed supplies or equipment. The remainder of the $10,000 in CFK grants is divided up proportionately to participating schools based on where the school's students place in the final oral presentation competition.
In addition to the recognition and prizes that go to the 12 finalists each year, CFK has a semi-finalist award program that includes over 30 sponsors that award special recognition prizes to entries of the sponsor's selection.
All judging is done anonymously with the student's name and school not being revealed until after the final oral presentations. CFK final oral presentations will be held at the Kenai High School Little Theatre Friday, April 21st at 6:00pm. The public is encouraged to attend the CFK oral student presentations to experience personally the great ideas coming forward from our youth. Additionally this year's competition will be streamed live over the internet by Soldotna High School technology students. Interested educators from as far away as Latin America, Japan, Indonesia, and Russia, have already expressed interest in logging on and witnessing this unique community educational program. The feed will be available at www.caringforthekenai.com .
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