Anya Hondel of Soldotna took top prize at last year’s Caring for the Kenai competition with her project, a puppet named Captain Conservation. Hondel will be a judge on this year’s panel. (Photo courtesy Caring for the Kenai)

Anya Hondel of Soldotna took top prize at last year’s Caring for the Kenai competition with her project, a puppet named Captain Conservation. Hondel will be a judge on this year’s panel. (Photo courtesy Caring for the Kenai)

Caring for the Kenai takes stage Thursday

Twelve high school students from across the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will take the stage Thursday night during the annual Caring for the Kenai competition.

The Kenai Central High School Little Theatre will be filled with community members, both as the audience and judges, while students present their ideas on how to improve the local environment or prepare for a natural disaster.

Finalists are competing for over $8,000 in cash prizes, according to a release, and over $20,000 in cash awards for their respective high schools.

The annual event is sponsored by Andeavor and presented in partnership with the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska.

This year’s finalists were chosen by eight community volunteers in March from a pool of nearly 400 entries from Homer High School, Kenai Central High School, Soldotna Prep, Nikiski, Ninilchik, Seward and home schooled students. The top 12 students’ names are kept anonymous until the oral presentations.

“From simple but practical ideas to the use of hi-tech innovations this year’s proposals will challenge us all to do more for our environment and natural disaster preparedness. The oral presentations are unique in Alaska an event not to be missed and a tribute to our school district,” said Caring for the Kenai creator Merrill Sikorski.

The presentations are open to the public and will begin at 6 p.m. in the Kenai Central High School little theate. They will also be streamed online at

This year’s judge’s panel consists of Cameron Hunt of Andeavor, Tim Dillon of the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District and Challenger Learning Center of Alaska, Dick Erkeneff of Kenai River Raven Lodge, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Assistant Superintendent John O’Brien, Jade Gamble of the Alaksa Department of Environmental Conservation and last year’s Caring for the Kenai winner Anya Hondel.

Caring for the Kenai is a part of the school district’s science curriculum, and gives back to participating schools. Each school with students in the final oral presentations are awarded prizes based on where their students place.

“The District’s students greatly appreciate Andeavor’s generous sponsorship of this important annual event and all of the volunteers that make this educational partnership possible every year,” said Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Sean Dusek. “The opportunity that Caring for the Kenai offers our students to showcase their creativity and ingenuity is excellent.”

Other sponsors for this year’s event include Kenai River Raven Lodge, Peninsula Community Health Services, Hilcorp, Peninsula Radiation Oncology Center, ConocoPhillips and Sweeney’s Clothing.

Reach Kat Sorensen at

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