"Welcome Leaders!" was the first sentence I read as I was handed a program at Outfront Minnesota's 2015 annual Youth Summit last Monday. It was 8:30am and the Wellstone Center was already full of motivated and friendly high school students decked out in purple t-shirts conversing with each other. In 15 minutes we'd be scattered across the building hosting and attending trainings on justice and equity in our communities. I was anxious to present a session on effective school clubs to my peers, but the program's reminder that youth are leaders and my composed co-presenters from YEA!MN boosted my confidence.
I’ve always pictured extreme air pollution as something that only happens in China, where coal power plants, manufacturing, and insane car traffic create suffocating smog. Not until I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma in 2013 did I consider the role of air pollution and air quality in my personal health. Inhalers help me manage my asthma, but I still occasionally struggle with shortness of breath.
When I learned that my representative to Congress, Keith Ellison, would be hosting a forum on air pollution and asthma, I knew I wanted to attend to learn more about how I can personally campaign for cleaner air.
On November 8th, 2014, 120 youth gathered at El Colegio High School in South Minneapolis to discuss pressing issues of climate justice and community organizing. With workshops on diverse topics such as Intersectionality, Climate Change, and Aquaponics, this event helped me understand the problems as well as the resources within our community. Overall, YouthCAN! was a great place to learn about climate justice and meet others engaging in community action around this subject.
Back in June, the YEA!MN steering committee and I took our year-end retreat to the Lake Country Land School in Wisconsin. We came up with lots of big plans for our projects during the 2014-2015 school year, one of which was the Youth Climate Action Now! (Youth CAN!) conference. At the time, it was hard to picture what the event would look like and how we would go about making it happen. But many hours of hard work by the planning committee payed off, culminating in an empowering conference on November 8th that exceeded all of our expectations.
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