Convening Young Leaders for Climate Resilience in New York State
The Wild Center’s Convening Young Leaders for Climate Resilience in New York State project increased climate literacy among high school students and teachers in New York City, the Catskills and the Adirondacks and gave students the leadership skills to help their communities respond to the impacts of climate change. The program worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Delaware County, the Kurt Hahn Expeditionary Learning School in Brooklyn, and Action for the Climate Emergency (formerly known as Alliance for Climate Education), along with NOAA, the New York State Office of Climate Change and NYSERDA. In the three project regions of New York State, project partners established Youth Climate Summits and Youth Climate Leadership Practicums as well as built on educators’ interests through Teacher Climate Institutes and communicated climate change science and resilience through community outreach activities. By the conclusion of the project, we had worked directly with 3,126 high school students, 1,124 teachers and 2,333 members of the public, each of whom gained a better understanding of the impacts of climate change in New York State, a greater capacity to make informed decisions about the threats to their own regions, and a stronger connection with other community members and ongoing resiliency work. Convening Young Leaders demonstrated significant leadership in connecting with New York State’s Climate Smart Communities program. Seven small, rural communities across New York State engaged in Climate Smart Communities (CSC) due to youth involvement. This emerged after partners at the NYS Office of Climate Change offered to present on CSC at multiple Youth Climate Summits. Students attended the CSC workshop, incorporated CSC into their climate action plans, contacted their local government, and encouraged them to join the program. Reaching out to municipal officials and presenting at community board meetings were tremendous learning opportunities for students, regardless of whether the municipalities joined the program. In 2020, two particularly engaged communities, Saranac Lake and Homer, received Bronze Certification through the CSC program and were formally recognized for their accomplishments. This unique partnership was documented in our Climate Smart Communities video www.wildcenter.org/climatesmart.