For the last five years, Seward Middle School students have been taking school trips to Alyeska Resort for skiing and snowboarding, with grants and scholarships making the sports more accessible.
Myla Lijemark, social studies educator at Seward Middle School, started the program and continues to volunteer her time to make the trips happen.
“I was looking for an opportunity to get kids exposed to different cultures,” she said Friday. “I started thinking about Alyeska and ski and snowboard culture, resort culture, all of that.”
Since then, the program has grown to focus on providing an affordable opportunity for kids to learn to ski and snowboard.
Lijemark said Kids 2 Slopes has become a valuable experience for “social and emotional health and well-being,” as the kids get outside and support one another.
Skiing and snowboarding are expensive, Lijemark said, and many families can’t afford to participate in the sports.
As part of Kids 2 Slopes, each student goes to Alyeska for two days. The students receive a two-hour lesson each day, before an open skiing time in the afternoon. They also receive lift tickets.
Students with disabilities or who would require adaptive equipment are accommodated with assistance from Challenge Alaska.
At full price, Lijemark said that the fee for each student would likely exceed $75, each day. Each student this year only had to pay a single fee of $30. For those unable to afford that, there are opportunities for parents and members of the public to pay the fee for students as part of the “Alyeska Scholarship Fund.”
That low fee, Lijemark said, is possible because of support from the Seward Parent Teacher Association, who have helped seek out grants, and directed fundraising efforts, including an annual wreath sale and one in which students sold Krispy Kreme donuts.
Kids 2 Slopes has received $5,000 from the Seward Community Foundation, $4,500 from the Seward PTA, $6,500 from Youth360 and the Seward Prevention Coalition, and $3,000 from the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area.
“A lot of kids grow up in homes where going skiing and snowboarding has just never been on the radar because it is such an expensive sport, but the community has gotten behind it,” Lijemark said.
Nearly every student from Seward Middle will have spent time on the mountain by the end of the week. Lijemark said that around 10 elected not to participate, but every student with a want had the opportunity.
Two of the four visits this year happened earlier this week. Seward Middle students will be at Alyeska on Monday and Thursday.
“This program is an incredible opportunity for middle school students in Seward to be outside, learning new schools, kind of building their grit and resilience and working through uncomfortable moments,” Lijemark said. “It’s a time when they get to do that with friends and that it’s healthy.”
For more information about Kids 2 Slopes, or to donate to the Alyeska Scholarship Fund, visit sewardakpta.com/k2s.