Real Talk With Real Youth is co-hosted by Ben Kolendo and Avery Palenske. Together, they facilitate youth-mediated conversations on all sides of the COVID debate to help you form your own opinions. Both of them are from the Mat-Su Valley. So, naturally, they talk with our guests about issues and topics that are interesting to and informative for Mat-Su residents.

Introducing Real Talk with Real Youth

Ben Kolendo
Avery Palenske

Episode 1: Health Perspective

In this episode, hosts Ben Kolendo and Avery Palenske have two conversations, one with Elizabeth Ripley and another with Dr. Anne Zink. Ripley sits on the Board of Directors of the Mat-Su Regional Medical Center and discusses COVID mitigation in Mat-Su schools, the mental health impacts of the pandemic, and how the cancellation of the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey impacted our ability to review how COVID has affected the youth in Alaska. Dr. Zink is Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer and also works as an ER doctor. She discusses her work, confidence in the various COVID vaccines, and current major health issues among Alaskan Youth.

The interview with Elizabeth Ripley was recorded on Wednesday, January 19. The interview with Dr. Zink was recorded on Tuesday, February 1. 


Episode 2: Youth Perspective

In this episode, hosts Ben Kolendo and Avery Palenske look at Covid from the perspective of Youth in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. In the first conversation, they talk to a group of four upperclassmen; in the second conversation, they talk to a group of three underclassmen.

This discussions were recorded during Spring Break and, while most teenagers were hanging out with friends, these youth took time out of their well-earned break to sit down and talk with Ben and Avery! 

These interviews were recorded on Tuesday, March 1.


Episode 3: Education Perspective

In this episode, hosts Ben Kolendo and Avery Palenske look at Covid from the perspective of two Matanuska-Susitna School District officials: Dr. Randy Trainy, who is the Superintendent of the Mat-Su school district, and Dr. Justin Ainsworth, who is one of the school districts’ Associate Superintendents. 

In this joint interview, Dr. Trainy and Dr. Ainsworth discuss COVID-19 mitigation in Mat-Su schools, the mental health impacts of the pandemic, Covid testing and vaccinations among students, and how Covid has affected work with unions.

This interview was recorded on Thursday, May 26. 

About this podcast

Real Talk with Real Youth is a project of Youth Alliance for a Healthier Alaska in partnership with Alaska Teen Media Institute. The show’s music was composed by Elliott Finn Gagnon. Many thanks to supporters of the podcast, including the Mat-Su Health Foundation Community-Driven C-19 Response, which is supported by the State of Alaska and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With additional support from the CDC Foundation Arts and Vaccine Confidence Project. The opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this podcast are those of our guests and do not necessarily reflect the views of our supporters.

Wellness resources!

COVID-19 tips from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention!