With the help of Rochester People’s Climate Coalition’s Abby McHugh-Grifa (Rochester Climate Action) and Sue Hughes-Smith (Mothers Out Front), The Harley School hosted a Youth Climate Leaders Summit as part of RPCC’s 12 Days of Climate events.
The summit was designed to bring school leaders (students) together to connect and discuss possible action and ways to collaborate in the face of climate change. By bringing the youth leaders together to ask and hopefully answer some big questions about local action with great impact, the hope was to generate shared momentum which we can then propel future action at the local and regional level.
The inaugural event was held on Saturday, December 5th, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. in the Briggs Center for Civic Engagement. Nearly 30 students from 6th-12th grade and seven different schools attended, as well as some of their teachers and other invested adults. The evening opened with registration and simple prompts around the room to get the students thinking and talking.
From there, Abby led everyone in an ice-breaker which involved the students responding to specific questions about climate change and activism. Once everyone had worked the room, they all sat down for a brief orientation to climate change basics so that everyone could start from the same point for discussion and brainstorming. Benny Smith and Liza Sommers took the lead to introduce the science of climate change and some simple solutions anyone could embrace.
After the introduction, the students divided into five groups which were then asked to identify current issues/obstacles related to climate change, propose some solutions, and even outline possible action to support projects to solve the issues. They spent nearly an hour discussing, challenging, supporting and ultimately prioritizing those possible plans for action. A spokesperson from each group then shared those plans with the reassembled larger group. The last part of the evening was led by Seth O’Bryan, talking about how to keep the momentum going. The group unanimously agreed to future monthly meetings and a cross-Rochester scope to their work, as opposed to school specific.
The energy of the group and shared commitment to finding solutions led to significant outcomes from such a short time together. All students, whether in 6th Grade or in 12th Grade, had relevant contributions to the conversations. Keep an eye out for future meetings and calls to action. This collection of students is sure to make waves to curb climate change. The international leaders who have just met in Paris to discuss climate change would certainly be proud!