YES Conference Empowers Youth Climate Activists and Inspires Hope

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

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

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 leaders.

Maddy from Sonoma Valley High School: “Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow.”

Maddy from Sonoma Valley High School: “Your future is created by what you do today, not tomorrow.”

“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.

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