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Arctic Youth Ambassadors Program

The Arctic Youth Ambassadors Program brings together diverse youth from across Alaska to serve as ambassadors for their communities and country in building awareness at home and abroad about life in the Arctic.

The inaugural cohort served for course of two years, which coincided with the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from 2015-2017. During this time, the youth ambassadors shared both their local perspective on Arctic issues and priorities and new knowledge they gained by engaging with partners and leaders from around the world. They added their voices and solutions to a global conversation about how to sustain communities, cultures and the environment in a changing Arctic.

Changes in the Arctic did not happen overnight, and some of the challenges the region (and the world) faces, such as climate change, cannot be solved overnight. Younger generations will play an important role in addressing these challenges. The Arctic Youth Ambassadors is one group of knowledgeable youth from across the State who understand the Arctic and its people and can explain it from a youth perspective for their peers across the United States and around the world.

Follow their lives and stories here and across social media by tracking #ThisArcticLife #USArcticYouth

The Arctic Youth Ambassadors program was originally established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Department of State in partnership with nonprofit partner Alaska Geographic. This page is hosted by Alaska Geographic.


US Arctic Youth Ambassadors and Staff meet with Alaskan Governor Bill Walker and Lt. Governor, Byron Mallott at the Week of the Arctic in Fairbanks, Alaska.

In the News

Arctic Youth Ambassadors have been involved in programs and meetings around Alaska, in other states, and as far as Norway, Iceland, and France. Through interviews, media coverage, and blogs, their stories are spreading far and wide, raising awareness  about the changing Arctic and inspiring greater public involvement.

See the Arctic Youth Ambassadors highlighted in “This Week at Interior, October 28, 2016” here.

Click the button below to see press coverage about the Ambassadors during the 2015-2017 U.S Chairmanship of the Arctic Council.


2015-2017 United States Arctic Youth Ambassadors

These first four Arctic Youth Ambassadors spoke about their commitment to addressing climate change and its impact on arctic communities in this video produced by Alaska Teen Media Institute.

Samuel Tocktoo
Shishmaref, Alaska
Samuel Tocktoo is a 17 year old from Shishmaref, Alaska. Samuel attends Shishmaref High School in the Bering Strait School District. He stays active participating in many different extracurricular activities including cross country running, volleyball, basketball, cross-country skiing, decathalon, and Youth Leadership. He has attended Northwestern Alaska Career and Technical Center for college preparatory work as well as Upward Bound, a 6 week summer program at University of Alaska Anchorage. Additionally, Sam has worked with Alaska Geographic and the National Park Service on a videography project about Yellow-billed loons, a bird USFWS identifies as a species of concern.
Chelsea Brower
Kaktovik, Alaska
Chelsea Brower is a 17 year old senior at the Harold Kaveolook School in Kaktovik Alaska. For the last four years, she has worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the City of Kaktovik as a Kaktovik Youth Ambassador, educating tourists on how to be respectful within the community and around polar bears. When Chelsea was younger she always wanted to help people with whatever they need help with as well as helping animals that are in need. Being a Kaktovik Youth Ambassadors helped her realize that she can help both people and marine animals by informing tourists on how to act in her village. Chelsea believes she likes to help people because of the way her parents and her grandmother raised her. They also raised her to have good grades in school. Chelsea’s favorite classes in school include math, science, and web design. As an Arctic Youth Ambassador, Chelsea wants to set a good example for her community and for her peers as well as younger children. She believes the biggest issues in the arctic are global warming and coastal erosion.
Rebecca Estrin
Ketchikan, Alaska
My name is Rebecca Estrin, I was born and raised in Ketchikan. I am Haida Raven Double-fin Killerwhale and adopted Tlingit Eagle Kaagwantan Wolf.
I have two brothers, 17 and 21, and my mother and step dad. I graduated in 2015. I am now a freshman at UAS. I plan on getting my masters degree and then go on to get my PHD. I am concerned about transboundary mining affecting our traditional food gathering and fishing as well as our livelihoods. I attend as many meetings as I can with my mother, my mentor. She serves on the KIC Tribal Council and is the vice chair of the United Tribal Transboundary Mining Work Group, which represents 14 southeast tribes. I grew up living our traditional way of life. One of my favorite hobbies is to go fishing. I try my best to be a great role model for my family and friends and everyone around me. We are the next generation of leaders and it is very important to step up and be involved with issues involving our communities.
Willie Drake
Anchorage/Pitkas Point, Alaska
Willie’s english name is Willie Drake and his Yupik name is Urpac. He graduated from Mt. Edgecumbe High School, where he participated in National Honors Society, Student Councl, wresting, basketball, cross-country and the Yupik dance group. He currently attends the University of Alaska Anchorage where he is majoring in Health Sciences with an emphasis in biology. Willie completed an internship with the Bering Straits Native Corporation where he completed workshops in ANSCA knowledge and Alaska Native policy issues to name a few. He has also participated in ANSEP’s summer program with UAA taking college math and learning about careers in science fields. Willie is interested in representing his home community of Pitkas Point along the Yukon River, where unusual changes in weather patterns have been observed such as late freeze-ups. Willie is also interested in learning about changes in other Arctic
Kimberly Pikok
Barrow, Alaska
Kimberly Pikok is a senior at Barrow High School where she is an active participant in student council and class council. She has participated in GeoFORCE, a geology summer program, Indigenous Youth Climate Change Council, and the Road to Vans Warped Tour. These experiences have grown her interest in climate change issues. She is interested in representing her community as an ambassador because she cares about how the environmental impacts of climate change on the subsistence lifestyle. In Kimberly’s spare time she enjoys attending concerts, finding new bands to listen to and love, baking, reading, learning about rocks, and television dramas.
Reth Duir
Anchorage, Alaska
Reth Duir is a graduate of West Anchorage High School. He is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education at University of Alaska Anchorage. This past summer he volunteered to help build seven cabins for Matsu valley’s Gateway to the Arctic Camp run by a partnership between Hope Worldwide and Great Land Christian Church. Through his volunteer experience and the men that also helped build the cabins; they were able to accommodate children from Boys and Girls club of Anchorage and Hearts and Hands. Reth’s interests include serving others and enjoying the outdoors. When serving and being able to enjoy the outdoors are combined it provides a rich experience. As an Arctic Youth Ambassador Reth hopes to enjoy both interests by getting involved in a rural exchange and by serving the community in areas that hold dear to the people of Alaska.
Esau Sinnok
Shishmaref, Alaska
Esau Sinnok is from Shishmaref, Alaska and is an Iñupiaq Eskimo. Esau is currently a youth organizer for 2015-2016 campaign for the Alaska Youth on Environmental Action, a program of the Alaska Center for the Environment. Esau is also an International Delegate for Sierra Club. Esau loves to go hunting, fishing, and camping with his family. Esau’’s future hopes are to hold a state office position like Governor, or Senator, or Mayor after he graduates from University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Marieana Larsen
Sand Point, Alaska
Marieana Larsen hails from Sand Point, Alaska. Mariana is Aleut and is a part of the Agdaadux Tribe of King Cove. Throughout high school she has been involved with a wide variety of community projects and educational programs. She has volunteered for Aleutians East Borough School District as a Special Education teachers aid and has worked for the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. In addition, Marieana has also worked with Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) and Student Conservation Association (SCA) as a YCC Youth leader.  Marieana is a freshman at the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is open-minded to new leadership opportunities and is passionate about being a youth voice for her community. She is specifically interested in bringing awareness in regards to the issues of substance abuse.
Carter Price
Unalaska, Alaska
Carter Price was born and raised in Unalaska and is an Alaska Native, an Aleut, and the tribal youth representative of the Qawalangin Tribe. He is an honor student at Unalaska City School and is the vice president of his junior class. He enjoys cross-country, basketball, and traveling, especially around rural Alaska. Carter was taught to provide for the elders in his community, whether it was providing salmon, halibut, or crab, he would always do his best to take care of elders in need. Carter feel fortunate to be a part of a resource-rich community where fisheries are bountiful; providing jobs, and sustainable economic opportunities. He believes in protecting the natural resources and believes that oil spills and the impacts of climate change will severely curtail the resources and way of life. Carter wants to use his voice to advocate for the protection of resources and responsible sustainable development such as clean alternative energy sources like wind, hydro, and geothermal.
Macy Rae Kenworthy
Kotzebue, Alaska
Macy Rae Kenworthy, originally from Kotzebue, spent a majority of her childhood across the Kotzebue Sound at her family’s camp in Sisaulik where her love for the outdoors originated. She graduated from Mt. Edgecumbe High school in Sitka, where her passion for science grew. Macy had the opportunity to participate in internships with the National Park Service through the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) and Student Conservation Association (SCA). Macy is currently a sophomore at the University of Alaska Fairbanks pursuing a double major in Chemistry and Secondary Education. In the future, she plans on teaching high school science and continuing my work in a conservation field.
Keemuel Kenrud
Togiak, Alaska
Keemuel Kenrud lives in Togiak, Alaska and works for the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Togiak National Wildlife Refuge. His Grandfather, Pete Abraham, raised him from a young age to observe and respect the land and to keep his native values. He was raised in a subsistence lifestyle in which he was taught how to hunt and fish from a young age. Throughout his life, Keemuel has noticed many changes in Alaska, both major and minor. The changing climate has heavily affected Keemuel and his family and many others throughout Alaska.
Christina Edwin
Anchorage, Alaska
Christina Edwin is from Anchorage. Her parents are originally from other places, her mother is from the interior and her father is from California. She is in her second year of college at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her goal in school is to begin research combining environmental science with social-political philosophy and culture. Christina draws energy from hiking, meditation, and cooking.
Griffin Plush
Seward, Alaska
Griffin has been involved with Alaska Youth for Environmental Action for the last four years, serving on the advisory board and as a board member for the parent organization, Alaska Center for the Environment. He is very involved in local environmental groups and works each summer as an interpretive guide for the National Park Service at the Exit Glacier ranger station where he educates visitors from across the globe on the effects of climate change on the glacier. He also loves acting and theater. This fall he will attend University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau, where he plans to study more about environmental issues and policy affecting our Arctic state.
Barae Hirsch
Anchorage, Alaska
Barae Hirsch grew up in Anchorage and Homer, and recently graduated from West Anchorage High School. Barae has been involved in numerous environmental and youth organizations including the Alaska Teen Media Institute, Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, West High Green Team, and the Spirit of Youth Teen Advisory Council, among others. She published multiple pieces in the Alaska Dispatch News addressing the role of Alaskan youth in the climate change discussion. Barae is passionate about writing, enjoying Alaska’s incredible beauty, and learning new ways in which she can participate in cultural, social, political, and environmental progress.
James Chilcote
Arctic Village, Alaska
James is Gwich’in Athabascan and was raised in Vashraii K’oo (Arctic Village). He moved to Fairbanks in the 8th grade, and graduated from Effie Kokrine Early College Charter School, a public school grounded in Alaska Native cultural beliefs and values for students looking for a small school focusing on rigorous academics, an early start to college, and individual and contemporary knowledge. He is happy he made the decision to get an education in Fairbanks, because, as he says, “living two different lives at such an early age has helped him a lot.” He is an advocate for his ancestors’ way of life and the Porcupine Caribou Herd stating, “My dream and goal in life is to keep this place safe.” James attended the Inter Tribal Youth Climate Leadership Congress at the US Fish and Wildlife National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia in 2015. He also played basketball in high school.
Byron Nicholai
Toksook Bay, Alaska
Toksook Bay is surrounded by the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in western, Alaska, an area of the state affected by coastal erosion. Byron is a strong advocate for Alaska Native culture and language and is known through the state and country for his performances of traditional songs and dances. He recently performed for Secretary Kerry at the Arctic Council Chairmanship reception. Byron is also adept with social media and has over 18,000 followers on his Facebook page
Cade (Emory) Terada
Dutch Harbor, Alaska
Cade (Emory) Terada is a Japanese American from Dutch Harbor Alaska. He attends Unalaska City School and is an active youth organizer for Alaska Youth for Environmental Action. He is a member of the local Teen Council where he works to empower youth in his community. His father had always encouraged him to help others as much as he possibly could. Cade enjoys hiking, cross country running, traveling and meeting new people as well as drama, debate, and forensics. Cade is interested in representing his community because of its dependence on the seafood industry. Cade credits the seafood industry for making Dutch Harbor his home. He wants to represent his community as an ambassador, a place that is changing due to climate change.
Grace Ongtowasruk
Teller, Alaska
Grace Ongtowasruk is a 17-year-old senior at the James C. Isabell School in Teller, Alaska. Next fall she plans on attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Grace is currently in a statewide group called AYEA, Alaska Youth for Environmental Action. Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) is a program of Alaska Center for the Environment that inspires and trains rural and urban youth leaders to impact environmental issues by providing leadership skills training and supporting youth-led community action projects and campaigns. This year, the AYEA program has a campaign to urge state leaders to reduce the carbon in Alaska’s air by 30% by 2030. Grace cares about the the earth because because she feels that it is our only home and we are destroying it. In addition to AYEA, Grace plays volleyball, basketball, Native Youth Olympics, and cross country running. Grace shares: “I want to represent my state and community well by being a AYA, I want to share my stories about my community and learn more about being a leader!”
Jannelle Trowbridge
Nome, Alaska
Jannelle Trowbridge is a musher from Nome Alaska. Born in Grand Rapids Michigan with her family of four, she sailed through the Northwest Passage on 30 foot wooden sailboat. By chance, they landed in Nome. In nome, Jannelle was involved within the Nome Native Youth Leadership Organization and Sister School Exchange. Today, Jannelle is involved within the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP). ANSEP coordinated with the United States Geological survey to employ her as a summer intern where she was given the opportunity to collect bivalves (clams) in the Chukchi Sea. These clams were collected to see how their growth rings correlated with the sea ice. Jannelle is currently at UAA, seeking a Bachelor of Science in Biology. Jannelle is eager to develop her voice on the Arctic and her excitement grows as she imagines the opportunities of culture and science exchange, as well as being an advocate for her community. She feels that her dad’s words of advice: “When you get the chance to dance, dance.” ring true.
Alexander Jorgenson
Anchorage, Alaska
Alex Jorgensen graduated from Polaris High School and currently attends the University of Alaska Anchorage where he is majoring in Psychology. His ultimate goal is to obtain a master’s degree in public policy. Alex owns and operates his own video production business and is working on a documentary for the Historic Preservation Commission of the Municipality of Anchorage. Alex is involved in his community council, the Model United Nations and Global Environmental Governance. He is passionate about protecting and ensuring the sustainability of the planet and hopes to spread the word about important Arctic issues with his video production experience and policy interest.
Briana Riley
Kiana, Alaska
Briana Riley is 17 year old Junior from Kiana Alaska. Briana grew up in Selawik and Kiana and has a keen understanding of the way of life and cultures of northwest Alaska. Briana is the captain for the Youth Leaders program, a program focused on empowering youth to address suicide and mental health. Additionally, she was one of seven students selected from the Northwest Arctic Borough to travel to Washington DC to meet with elected officials and agency staff who are involved in arctic and tribal policy. She also was a winner in a regional essay contest based on knowledge of subsistence and how it shapes culture, and how it might shape sustainable communities in 2040.
Jonas Mackenzie
Kaktovik, Alaska
Jonas is a junior at Harold Kaveolook High School, and a Kaktovik Youth Ambassador, where he helps to better educate tourists who come from around the world to see polar bears. Growing up on the North Slope and as a member of a whaling crew and subsistence hunter, Jonas has unique experiences living in the heart of the changing Arctic—and is stepping up as a youth leader. From shoreline erosion to thinning sea ice causing changes in polar bears and other marine mammals, and all the associated changes for people in Arctic communities, Jonas has valuable insights on how the Arctic is changing, and challenges to addressing these changes in his community. Jonas is also a musician; he brings people together playing the guitar and singing, “My favorite right now is ACDC and I am really into old ‘50s rock and roll, and old country like hank Williams and Johnny Cash”.

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