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YES Conference Empowers Youth Climate Activists and Inspires Hope

by Niki Woodard and Amy Jolly, CCP  |  February 10, 2016  

Maddy from Sonoma Valley High School:

“Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow.”


Twenty-three students from Sonoma County attended the Youth for
Environment and Sustainability (YES) Conference
on January 30 at the
Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley. The conference is organized Bay Area Air Quality Management District and
the Metropolitan Transportation Commission
to bring together middle and high school students from the greater Bay Area to
talk about transportation and sustainability solutions. About 400 students from
nine counties attended this free event. 

The Climate Center’s Youth Advisory Board
(YAB) presented a well-received “Climate Café,” in which YAB members
facilitated roundtable discussions provoking a deep exchange about the climate
change problem and its solutions. In two separate rounds of discussion, YAB
members asked 81 of their peers to identify their personal location in the
climate change problem and how they are part of the solution.  In the second round, YAB members asked
“Climate Café” participants to “share their climate moment,” to put into words
the trigger that inspired them to take action. They also asked students what
they plan to do when they return from YES to their schools and communities. The
session concluded by asking what message YES members would give to world

“The student’s answers to these questions were incredibly
insightful, inspiring and encouraging. The young people at the YES Conference
are forward-thinking and give me great hope for the future. They have the
problem-solving skills needed to address climate change,” said Amy Jolly,
Program Manager for the Center’s youth leadership program, ECO2school. 

The 23 YES Conference student participants from Sonoma
County came home invigorated and fired up to take evermore impactful actions to
address climate change. They are also better connected to one another and
better poised to have meaningful impact. 

“Collaboration was a dominant theme in this year’s YES
Conference,” said Amy. “Our students focused on communicating the power of collective
action. They designed their ‘Climate Café’ to emphasize the value of team
building and collaborative thinking. Strengthening this sense of connection
empowers them with a feeling of being part of something much bigger than
themselves,” Amy continued. 

YAB member, Izzi Rader, was the Master of Ceremonies for
the Conference. She presented inspiring anecdotes about her climate-focused summer
exchange trip to China. Her take home message was to communicate the global
passion, swelling from the youth, to make positive change. “It was amazing to
witness the conviction that our peers in China had to push through their bike
project despite immense resistance and nearly insurmountable challenges. If
they can push through that bike project, imagine what we can do here. We have
no excuses to not make big things happen,” said Izzi.   

“Adults need to find better ways to hear our youth. These
students are impassioned and committed. Their messages are strong, authentic
and urgent. As we connect youth with mentors and like-minded peers, a chemistry
happens. They claim their voice. It is powerful,” said Amy.

Chris from Montgomery, wraps up our Youth Advisory Board’s presentation, the Climate Cafe, by giving everyone an inspirational message to take home.