Begich stresses education to RAHI students

Jeremia Schrock / Sun Star Reporter
June 5, 2011

Sen. Mark Begich gestures during a June 2 speech to students of the Rural Alaska Honors Institute. The institute was founded to give rural high school students an opportunity to transition more easily into college life. Begich espoused the values of higher education and hoped that all of the students would graduate the program and excel at the university level. Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star

On June 2, Sen. Mark Begich (D) spoke to students of the Rural Alaska Honors Institute (RAHI). Begich’s speech coincided with the first day of class for the students and doubled as both an update on legislative issues and a discussion on the importance of higher education. RAHI is part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) and was developed to help rural high school student transition to a college setting.

“College life is an experience to say the least, but it also opens the door for so many things,” Begich said. Begich, an entrepreneur and businessman since his early teens, stressed the importance of higher education in both the business world and beyond. “Every day that I sit in the U.S. senate, or when I was mayor or when I am doing business, you’re learning all the time,” he said.

Begich added that the RAHI program is exciting and incredible and hoped that those who finish the program will continue their education at the university level.

Begich imparted to the students the two most important lessons he’d learned as senator: patience and relationship building. “Widen and broaden the spectrum of the people you associate with,” he said. “Because that alone will add to your ability to learn what’s out there.”

Sen. Mark Begich (center) poses for a photo with this summers crop of students at the Rural Alaska Honors Institute. On June 2, Begich gave a speech which extolled the importance of higher education and wished the students good luck in their future studies. Jeremia Schrock/Sun Star

After speaking, Begich fielded a number of questions from the students present. Marina Anderson, from Craig, asked Begich what his thoughts were on the potential reopening of the Bokan Mountain uranium mine on Prince of Wales Island. The mine has been closed since 1971, but was purchased by UCORE Rare Metals, a Canadian mining company, in 2007. The company is considering reopening the mine.

Begich stated that he was unfamiliar with the mine and stressed that mining itself wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. He added that the mining industry could operate side-by-side with the fishing industry and cited Kensington Mine near Juneau as an example.

“With regards to the mine in your community, I’m not as familiar with it,” he said. “But, now that you mention it, guess what? I’m going to be very familiar with it.”

Anderson, who is studying molecular biology, feels that the issue is important to the future of her community. Craig, an isolated town of the southwest coast of Alaska, is based around the fishing industry. An industry she feels could be threatened if the mine is reopened.

“He has a lot on his plate,” Anderson said, hopeful that Begich would look into the issue soon. “When he is aware of something he goes after it,” she added.

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