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returning to the final frontier: featured fjv liz purdy (sitka, ak ’10-11)

We begin the new year with a new Featured FJV whose commitment to the four core values of JVC Northwest, especially ecological justice, remains as strong as ever. Liz Purdy (Sitka, AK ’10-11, Staff ’11-13) details her time in Alaska as a JV and the environmental protection work that has brought her back.


When I first spoke with the Alaska Program Coordinator upon beginning my JV application she told me, “Everything in Alaska is more extreme than [in] the lower 48.” As a native of Seattle, I believed I had a sense of the northern scene I would find as a JV in the rural town of Sitka; and I was excited by the prospect of serving at a domestic violence shelter and the array of challenges that would unfold there.

Liz catches her first ever king salmon during her JV year.
Liz catches her first ever king salmon during her JV year.

It turns out my program coordinator was correct; Alaska offered me a life of new extremes. During my JV year I got to know the extremes of the social justice issues within the state and became intimately familiar with the statistics that showed Alaska as the nation’s leader in domestic violence and sexual assault. The people behind these statistics (which are casually read in news briefings throughout the country) are the very individuals served by JVs and former JVs.

Besides the social extremes within the state, there are also ecological justice issues rooted in the resource-rich, pro-industry setting of Alaska. A few years after my JV experience, when considering where to pursue my internship for my graduate degree in Sustainable Development, Alaska was high on my list. I was excited to return in a new capacity this past fall working on a policy advocacy campaign focused on the transboundary watersheds between Northwest British Columbia and Southeast Alaska (BC/AK). With JVC Northwest’s value of social and ecological justice deeply in mind, the opportunity to intern with the Salmon Beyond Borders campaign felt like the perfect way to wed my graduate studies with my familiarity and appreciation of the region I served in as a JV.

After commercial fishing this summer in Bristol Bay, Alaska, I now reside in Juneau where I work alongside other dedicated individuals to seek protection of the abundant resources of the BC/AK international watersheds. With rapid industrial development of large-scale mining being permitted in BC, the salmon (and all other creatures) that rely on the clean water of Southeast Alaska are at risk. The dam breach at the Mt. Polley mine in BC in August of this year released millions of cubic tons of toxic waste into the Fraser River watershed escalating the concerns of this rapid mine permitting in BC. The concerns about the potential impacts of this development to the Southeast Alaskan way of life are significant and directly connect to the ways I began exploring ecological justice during my JV year in Sitka.

Misty Fjords National Monument – downstream of proposed mine project being opposed by Salmon Beyond Borders

As any JV or FJV who has served in (or even just traveled to) Alaska knows, salmon (and the fishing and tourism economies that they support) are the lifeblood of many communities throughout the state. I was privileged to first be able to arrive in Alaska as a JV, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to continue to serve within the region during this campaign for ecological justice. To learn more about and take action on this important transboundary watershed issue, please visit salmonbeyondborders.org.

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Upcoming Virtual Events

Get to Know JVC Northwest

Tuesday, November 30 | 6:00pm ET / 3:00pm PT

Join us to learn all the basics about a year of service in the Pacific Northwest, including where you can serve, what you might do, and how to apply. Our Recruiter, Zayna, will also share her experience as a JV in both Alaska and Montana. Finally, we’ll open it up for an informal Q+A.

Discerning Post-Grad Service Roundtable

Thursday, December 2 | 6:30pm ET / 3:30pm PT

Led by Greg Carpinello, Executive Director of JVC Northwest, this roundtable will explore how to discern if a service-year program is right for you.

Prior to joining JVC Northwest in 2019, Greg worked at both Xavier University and Boston College where he helped accompany students through post-grad discernment processes.

Zayna Abusada

JVC Northwest Recruiter

Zayna Abusada (Ashland, MT ’17-18, Anchorage, AK ’18-19) was most recently a JV in south-central Alaska serving with immigrant and refugee English-Language learners as the Academy for Citizenship and Civics Support Specialist with the Alaska Literacy Program (ALP) in Anchorage. Zayna first served with Indigenous students on the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Reservations. Originally from Iowa City, Iowa, Zayna went on to earn her undergraduate degree in History and Theological Studies with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies at Saint Louis University.

Catch Zayna at an Event Near You!

11/2/202112pm – 1pmOregon StateVirtualInfo Session w/ College of Liberal Arts and Education
11/2/20217pm-9pm ESTBoston College/St. Anselm/Holy CrossVirtualPost Grad Service Fair
11/2/202112pm-2:30pmManhattan CollegeIn PersonPost Grad Service Fair
11/4/20211:30pm – 4:30pmCatholic UniversityIn PersonLong-Term Service Fair
11/7/2021 IFTJIn PersonIFTJ
11/10/20218:30am-12pmSaint LouisIn PersonService Fair
11/15/20212pm-4pmVillanovaIn PersonPost Grad Service Fair
11/16/20212pm-4pmUniversity of ScrantonIn PersonPost Grad Service Fair
11/17/20211pm-3pmSaint Joseph’s UniversityIn PersonPost Grad Service Fair