The Will Steger Foundation is proud to congratulate the following eight Midwest youth organizations for receiving competitive funding for climate solutions in partnership with the RE-AMP network. The Will Steger Foundation’s Emerging Leaders program is home to the Midwest Youth Caucus, a space where key youth climate leaders can network with one another and build cross-generational connections with veteran non-profit environmental organizations across the region. We play a key role in facilitating the Youth Caucus, mentoring grantees, and building a leadership pipeline. While most proposals include a movement-building component, many also include a very specific policy target. Together these initiatives exemplify the power of an integrated approach to change-making and highlight the vibrant youth leadership emerging across the Heartland.
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Chicago - Youth Volunteers
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization: Public Transportation in Chicago's Little Village Neighborhood
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization will continue to develop the Coalition “Communities for a 31st St. Bus Route” to advocate and support the expansion of the recently initiated 35th/ 31st St. bus route extension. The 31st St. bus route will serve six different Chicago neighborhoods and have an estimated ridership of 108,869 people who are mostly low-income and an additional 77,905 riders who have disabilities saving 490 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year and reducing emissions by 70% per trip for the average car driver in Little Village. Local youth leadership is a central pillar of LVEJO organizational structure and a core tenant of the campaign strategy for transit access.
Minnesota Youth Environmental Network in action at the Climate Math That Works conference, Minneapolis
Minnesota Youth Environmental Network/ Will Steger Foundation: Clean Energy Defense
Minnesota Youth Environmental Network (MNYEN) will build and excite the youth base across the state to protect and promote Minnesota’s clean energy legislation. Following on successful effort to secure Gov. Dayton’s veto on the bill to lift the statewide coal moratorium, MNYEN will continue to push the Governor to be a champion for climate legislation. Specific focus areas also include collaboration with Governor and staff on the MN Environmental Congress and partnership with MPIRG on a joint youth lobby day during the spring session. MNYEN is working closely with partner groups including the Will Steger Foundation (fiscal sponsor), Minnesota Environmental Partnership, Fresh Energy, and MN350 as well as youth partner organizations MPIRG and Grand Aspirations.
Grand Aspirations, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, and Minnesota Public Interest Research Group: Youth Lead Minneapolis Excel
Grand Aspirations, Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota, and Minnesota Public Interest Research Group are collaborating to organize Minneapolis youth as catalysts of the Minneapolis Energy Options campaign. The coalition will engage youth as constituents and as organizers of community events, grassroots outreach, coalition building, and grassroots media to educate and engage residents around a 2013 Minneapolis ballot initiative enabling municipalization. The coalition will use the threat of municipalization to secure major clean energy and energy efficiency commitments from energy utilities, create a model for other cities, and build a broad and diverse movement for climate and energy solutions.
Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition/National Wildlife Federation: Building Student Leadership for Clean Energy Campuses
The Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition is working with NWF (fiscal sponsor) to launch a statewide campaign focused on the following strategic outcomes: A “Road Map” for reducing carbon emissions on Michigan’s campuses; Statewide student led issue-based working groups to facilitate the exchange of action based efforts around reducing carbon emissions; MSSC as the leading youth/student voice for the environment in Michigan. MSSC and NWF will also continue their collaborative efforts close campus coal plants, stop fracking on public lands, prohibit Enbridge from expanding tar sands through the state, and increase renewable energy on campuses and statewide. This proposal couples movement building with action to make Michigan higher education institutions leaders and innovators in the clean energy movement.
Iowa City Summer of Solutions
Iowa City Summer of Solutions/ Grand Aspirations: Expand Energy Efficiency in Iowa City
Iowa City Summer of Solutions (a program of Grand Aspirations) seeks to increase energy efficiency in Iowa City and the Midwest through the promotion of a five-year energy efficiency plan for Iowa and maximizing Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards. The primary focus for this campaign will be encouraging tenants in rental units to improve their energy efficiency, and increasing cooperation of landlords in this process, primarily through policy. The IA City summer of Solutions program will employ youth from the Iowa City area, engage local policy makers, and engage partners from across the state.
Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group: Promote Public Transit
A new generation is leading a shift in transportation habits that could dramatically transform the future of transportation in Wisconsin and across the country, if the voices of this new generation are elevated. Young people ages 16-34 are driving significantly less, and walking, biking and taking public transit more – trends that will reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions. WISPIRG Foundation’s Transportation for the New Generation will elevate the voices that will shape the future of transportation and ensure that they are strong and forceful proponents of building a transportation system that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and that meets the needs of the future rather than the past.
Indigenous Environmental Network/ Energy Action Coalition: Movement Building to Stop Heart Mine in North Dakota
Indigenous Environmental Coalition (fiscally sponsored by Energy Action Coalition) is building a strong coalition of frontline and Indigenous communities, labor, youth, and communities of color across the state to halt the South Heart Mine and Power Plant in North Dakota, the first mine built in ND in 30 years proposed to produce 2.4 million tons of coal a year for the next 30 years. Organizing tactics include communication structures and in-person meetings, listening sessions with frontline communities, bucket brigades to collect air quality and soil/water samples, a campaign to educate legistators, and non-violent direct action training,
Illinois Student Environmental Coalition: Engage Students around IL Clean Energy Issues
The Illinois Student Environmental Coalition, a program of the Illinois Environmental Council Education Fund, will continue to engage students across the state in advocating for a clean energy future for IL. The 2013 campaign will focus specifically on the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) “fix”. Illinois’ RPS needs a challenging but important technical fix to continue to meet its goals. Students were an important part of the passage of the original bill and will continue to push for more effective legislation through grassroots training, a letter writing campaign, and youth lobby day.
Across the Midwest and the nation, youth organizers are not only getting out the youth vote, they are connecting the dots between the fossil fuels industry and elections and building an informed, committed, and passionate youth base.
Youth orgs across the Midwest are actively engaging their generation in the Presidential debates, elections and critical ballot measures, and creating pipelines for new leadership in the broader climate change movement.
MPIRG, WISPIRG and the MI Student Sustainability Coalition (MSSC) have been getting out the youth vote through voter drives and Energy Action Coalition’s Power Vote campaign. The MSSC has been garnering Michigan student support from across the state to support Prop 3. MPIRG has launched a voter education campaign calling on young voters to vote no on the anti-marriage and voter ID amendments to the state constitution. During the past four election cycles, WISPIRG’s New Voters Project has registered more than 160,000 18- to 24-year-olds.
Youth Mentorship and Professional Development
Grand Aspirations was successful in placing 5 of their participants from five summer of Solutions across the Midwest in paid positions across the region: YEA Corps, Minneapolis, Distributed Power, Detroit, A Just Harvest, Chicago, and MN350 in the Twin Cities. Positions for these emerging leaders were funding in part by the RE-AMP’S Strategic Initiative Fund, with matching funds from the host organization.
The Will Steger Foundation has paired 10 participants in an innovative mentorship program, matching youth leaders across the Midwest with veteran staff from environmental non-profits across the RE-AMP network. The mentor relationship is based on the premise that both participants have expertise to bring and aimed at foster mutual learning and growth that can benefit the entire RE-AMP network. Orientation will begin at the end of October with the mentorship contract running through May 2013.
Growing and Engaging the Youth Base
Energy Action Coalition is engaging youth voters across the US through their Power Vote campaign. Not only is the campaign aimed at getting youth registered for the November elections (with Michigan in the lead at 8,270+ registrations), it’s also aimed at ‘breaking the silence on climate change’ in the Presidential debates, and spotlighting the hand the fossil fuels industry is playing in both parties.
350.org will launch it’s ‘Do the Math’ tour across the US, Nov 7-Dec 1, with Midwest stops in Columbus OH, Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, and Omaha. The 350 youth outreach coordinator (Janina Klimas, former Director of the Ohio Student Environmental Coalition) is hard at work making sure youth know about the events (and free student/youth tickets!) and the opportunity to leverage it to benefit their own youth climate work in the city/state. In Minneapolis, MN350 has partnered with the MN Youth Environmental Network and Will Steger Foundation to host a daylong youth organizing retreat for students across the state on Dec 1.
The Will Steger Foundation’s Emerging Leaders Program aims to educate, empower, and engage a new generation of climate leadership on a local, regional, national, and international scale.
40,000 heat records have already been broken this year across the U.S. according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This year has definitely brought the U.S. the broad spectrum of extreme weather events that climate scientists have warned about for years.
"This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level. The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about," Jonathan Overpeck, professor of geosciences and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona, told The Associated Press.
Here in Minnesota, we’ve been hit with floods and unusual heat waves. “Duluth is maybe in the first wave of cities to adapt to climate change,” said University of Minnesota Extension climatologist Mark Seeley after the June 20th flood. Climate scientists say increasing precipitation, particularly from intense thunderstorms, is a symptom of ongoing climate warming because warm air holds more water vapor than cooler air.
There are a few bright spots worth highlighting that show we are getting serious about addressing climate change – for instance, 80 educators are registered for our annual Summer Institute to learn how to address climate change in the classroom, and over two million Americans have submitted comments in support of the first ever carbon rule. Read about these stories and more in this month’s newsletter.
Nicole Rom, Executive Director
This May, I had the opportunity to attend the Good Jobs Green Jobs Regional Midwest Conference in Detroit, Michigan. It is hosted by Blue Green Alliance, which is a coalition of labor unions and environmental organizations working to build “a cleaner, fairer and more competitive American economy."
The Will Steger Foundation is kicking off the summer with research to develop and launch an innovative mentorship program within the RE-AMP network that connects youth climate leaders with veteran staff from climate-focused non-profit organizations across the Midwest.
Mentorship is defined as a mutually beneficial learning relationship between two people that involves caring, commitment and trust. This project, which received grant funding through the RE-AMP Strategic Initiative Fund, aims to build egalitarian and intergenerational relationships that allow both participants to gain powerful new insights and perspectives.
You can view our full profile at the Charities Review Council.