This past October ACE awarded 70 scholarships to youth leaders from around the country to head to Pittsburgh, PA for PowerShift, a convergence of more than 10,000 young people working for climate justice. This transformative conference galvanized youth climate leaders through informative panels, skill-building workshops and the celebration of solutions.
15 of those scholarship winners came from the Washington D.C. metro area, and since then, these leaders have been working to inspire climate action. Less than one month after PowerShift, seven of these leaders headed to EPA headquarters in downtown Washington D.C. to testify in favor of a strict carbon pollution standard for existing power plants. In the face of adversaries from the coal industry, these youth leaders spoke out for what they believed in on behalf of their generation.
Last month in January their climate action continued at a television recording studio at Hylton High School in Woodbridge, Virginia. Troi Newman, who was very outspoken in her testimony at the EPA in November, hosted a climate solutions webcast in collaboration with ACE partners: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Robert Young, another top leader in the ACE network, joined her in hosting this first-of-its-kind webcast called ClimateChangeLIVE, to be broadcast to hundreds of classrooms across the nation in early March. The live, interactive studio audience was made up of other ACE PowerShift scholarship winners from the Washington D.C. metro area.
Finally just last week, the DC youth leadership network further deepened their influence at a premier DC-based conference, Good Jobs, Green Jobs. Seven ACE youth leaders were recruited to help host the first-ever Youth Caucus as a prequel to the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference, in spite of the fact that youth have been historically marginalized at events that focus on transitioning our economy away from fossil fuel dependence towards renewable energy. ACE collaborated on this event with the BlueGreen Alliance and NRDC, and ACE’s leaders expertly facilitated three hours worth of material throughout the day, supporting the event in realizing its goals for a collective vision for youth at this conference and the broader movement.
The type of popular education-based facilitation training used in the Youth Caucus training is a cornerstone of ACE’s work, both internally and externally. After preparing with ACE’s DC-based staffer, Leah Qusba, students reported feeling increased confidence and excitement for their role at the conference and beyond. Kwanesha Love, senior at Central High School in Capitol Heights, Maryland said, “This was my first time ever facilitating a workshop at a conference, and it felt great. It felt amazing knowing that I was creating a great experience for youth that were quite a bit older than me, and I heard a lot of positive feedback immediately about my contribution.”
Michelle Tran, senior at Chantilly High School in Chantilly, Virginia said, “The Youth Caucus for Good Jobs, Green Jobs was incredible. Often times youth like us only read about the Sierra Club, AFL-CIO, litigation, and policy in textbooks, but this opportunity brought the concept of interest groups to life. Discussing, questioning, and learning from these youthful and bright leaders was both inspirational and aspirational. I only hope that more youth seek opportunities like this in the future.”
So, what’s next for these bright, young leaders? At the request of these students, ACE will be hosting a special Youth Action Lab at the end of March to focus on a letter writing campaign designed to target elected officials in regards to the EPA’s proposed emission standards for existing power plants. These leaders are eager to deliver their letters in-person to the legislative floor in celebration of Earth Day in late April.