In March 2014, I was an incredibly angsty junior at DeLaSalle, absolutely fed up with school and wondering what I could do to finish high school while doing meaningful work that would make me happy. Looking back at the past year, I think I’ve figured it out pretty well. My internship with YEA! MN has put me in situations I never thought I could get high school credit for, from having a discussion with Governor Dayton, to marching through the streets of New York with 400,000 other people from around the world. Most importantly, YEA! MN has showed me where my true passions lie and inspired me to continue working in the environmental organizing field in the future.
The way that I ended up in this position is really a testament to who Climate Generation (and YEA! MN in particular) is as an organization. In my search to find something meaningful to do with my senior year, I contacted people from several different environmental organizations around the Twin Cities. A few people emailed me back saying they might be interested, but out of the blue as I was stepping onto a bus back in spring of 2014, YEA! MN coordinator Natalie Cook actually called me on my cell phone. I couldn’t talk at the moment, but I was struck by the fact that she made such a concerted effort to reach out to me. When I got home we talked on the phone for about half an hour, and by the end of that conversation I knew that YEA! MN and Climate Generation was the place for me. That personal outreach and connection that Natalie made exemplifies what the most important values of Climate Generation are. In climate organizing work, the crucial step is making personal connections with people. Once someone can see themselves personally affected by an issue, it’s easy for them to become involved. In this same way, the personal connection Natalie made with me caused me to really see myself in the work the organization was doing. That personal connection hasn’t left me since, and I’m now 100% invested in the work that Climate Generation does and the broader actions and initiatives it supports.
I’ve had too many amazing, memorable experiences to count over the past year. Some of the ones that stand out most to me include going to New York for the People’s Climate March, our YEA! MN organized Youth CAN! conference in November, and this year’s Youth Lobby Day, in which I got to lead a meeting with Governor Dayton about Minnesota’s Renewable Energy Standard. Through all these great experiences I’ve had, the main thing I’m taking away from my year working at Climate Generation is something bigger. It is my realization that even as a young person, my voice is incredibly powerful, and when the voice of the youth is coordinated and strong it’s almost impossible to ignore. This year I’ve met and worked with some of the most intelligent, motivated, socially aware young people I’ve ever met, and seeing them in action gives me incredible hope for the future. I know that they will continue working hard and will be the driving force behind the movement that finally stops climate change.
Knowing that I’m headed off to college at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA in just a few months can be really scary to think about, having lived in Minneapolis almost my whole life. I’m so excited, but also a little nervous because I’ll be in a new environment so far away from home. Despite the jitters I get when I think about this imminent change sometimes, I’ll be moving away full of excitement and optimism. The young people I’ve met through YEA! MN give me so much hope for what we will accomplish in our lives, and my work at Climate Generation has shown me even more clearly how important these issues are. I can’t wait to start organizing and finding new problems to tackle in my new home next year.