Positive Alaskan program blends guns and kids
The sounds of shotguns fill the air at the
outside of Anchorage, where a group of school-aged kids are practicing shooting flying clay targets.
Often when you hear the words "kids" and "guns" used together in the news, it's a story that involves some level of tragedy. However, an Alaskan shotgun sports program for 4th through 12th graders, is not only mixing the two, but doing it with positive and sometimes life-changing results.
"Our program focuses primarily on developing great citizens," explains Lindy Moss with Alaska Youth Education in Shooting Sports.
Moss's husband started the local program – part of a national program – in 2004.
"We started with about six kids. Just a very small team in Wasilla," she said, but now, "we have over 350 kids."
Today, the program is statewide, with teams from Fairbanks to Ketchikan represented.
Nathan Marshall, a senior at Lumen Christi High School in Anchorage, was introduced to shooting sports at summer camp.
"When I was 10, I just thought it was fun – a sport that I really enjoyed," said Marshall.
Gun safety is the number one lesson, but the 50 volunteers, who run the program, hope it gives the students something more.
"We stress not just sportsmanship and teamwork and respect, but self-sufficiency – self reliance," says Moss.
Since 2015, the older students in the group – the high school juniors and seniors – have been able to compete in collegiate shooting events in the Lower 48.
"This has been huge!," exclaimed Moss. "There are over 300 colleges Outside that have shotgun teams, including universities and colleges such as Yale and Harvard, Texas A&M."
What first started out as simply a fun activity for many of these students, has now become a way to pay for college.
"If I'm offered a position from a college coach, that would be incredible," said Emily Brooks, a senior at Soldotna High School. Brooks said she has been shooting since she was 11-years-old.
Next month, some of the juniors and seniors in the program will head to Boise, Idaho to compete in the Upper Northwest Collegiate Tournament. Last year, the Alaskan group won first place in two of three events. Additionally, two of the seniors walked away with college scholarships.
"It's like any other sport," said Angelina Monfrer, a freshman at South Anchorage High School, who has been shooting since she was 9. "Like football, baseball, hockey – it's just shooting guns," said Monfrer.
Sometimes, a gun serves as a weapon, but it' can also be a tool for building positive futures.
For more information about the Alaska SCTP-YESS non-profit program, visit