This is a submission by ACE student Will Burnett to the Nature's Voices Project and was originally shared on their site. The Nature's Voices Project honors and amplifies the voices of young people inspired by environmental education.
When a seed is planted in the ground, much like an avid learner and applied student, it seeks to grow. The seed soon surrounds itself with ideas of change; the idea of growing to better its knowledge on how to not just embrace change, but create it. Someone who can inspire, engender, and embrace change all at once. Right now, I am that growing seedling, I was that small seed, planted and grounded in a world that needs changing, and I seek to become that blossomed individual, creating a world around me that I know is a product of my knowledge, and inspiring those around me who seek to grow and change, just as much as I do
Currently, I am a 10th grade student enrolled at Boston Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts. My hunger to grow and learn began in 2012, when I was the epitome of a seed, waiting to grow (and not just height wise) into more of an empowered, confident individual. The opportunity to grow came to me in a relatively unexpected way, because who would have thought that sitting down in a US History 1 classroom would open up to me the world of climate change. Little did I know, my US History teacher was a dedicated environmentalist and was eager to share with her students exactly what it meant to become involved with the climate and environmental studies. Later the next year, in fall 2013, I got an email from my US History teacher about an event called Powershift, which I applied to not knowing quite what I was in for. Powershift 2013, little did I know, was going to be the place where I began to blossom as a confident, young individual.
At Powershift 2013 I was one of around 75 youth attending, in a group of around 3000 college students and working adults; to put it mildly, I was a little intimidated. However, I was once again gaining life experience that was invaluable to me. I was able to attend numerous workshops and lectures on topics that directly affected me, like the School to Prison Pipeline, the state of school lunches within the US, and how to organize a climate campaign to motivate those around you. This was the little bit of growing I needed to do before I reached my defining moment. Often in workshops the small youth group that we brought into the room was split up and put into groups of five or six adults. I realized at the workshop centered around Food Sustainability in the US, that I was the other perspective needed. I was the student, sitting in a cafeteria at lunch, wondering exactly what food was coming into the school today, why it was never fresh, and why we had to do away with our Salad Bar for at least a year and a half, and work hard to get it back. I was the perspective that was needed in this room filled with speculators. I was asked what it was like being a part of a generation where “canned” and “pre-packaged” were the new “fresh”. Powershift is where my environmental education really started. Becoming a part of the Alliance for Climate Education opened up my eyes to a whole new world for experiences that would allow me to grow and blossom the way I needed to.
I would also like to share an experience that really let me know what it was like to be a youth in the climate change community. Although our voices are growing and our horizons expanding, we still exist within a movement led by the generations ahead of us, making choices that affect those behind them. During Powershift, ACE held its very own workshop, geared at high school students, but it was deeply encouraged for college students and adults to sit in. The day of, we were given the task to simply spread the word, let everyone know that we were holding an amazing workshop on educating youth with engaging visuals, and statistics, and piece after piece of information on environmental science. The reaction we met was mixed at first, but later it became clear that because of our age, it was perceived that there was too much of a gap to reach such an older audience. The most negative reaction seen was people being offended that we thought they should sit in on a presentation geared for high school students.
Nonetheless, I came away from that experience nothing less than empowered. I’m proud to be a youth. I’m proud to represent a generation that seeks to change, and I am proud to help lead a movement surrounded by the bright minds of thousands of young adults across the nation. I was proud to be a part of the Alliance for Climate Education, a group of people who sees that empowering and educating youth is one of the most effective ways make an impact.
A group of people has spread nationwide, from Atlanta, New England, Nevada, California, North Carolina, and Illinois; youth from schools across the nation, where ACE gives presentations simply to spread the word and educate. We came together to form a group of youth who knew exactly what they needed to do to be heard, to learn, and to grow. ACE has allowed me to “Think Big, Start Smart, and Act Now”. ACE was my defining moment, the moment when I realized that as a part of a generation feeling the effects from generations that are ten, twenty years before me, I was going to have to stand up and fight for change, I was going to have to be confident and strong, I was going to have to be part of a movement larger than me, something bigger than myself because I was vital to the growth of a community.
I was blossoming.