Celebrating YEA! MN Student Leadership on Climate Action Projects!

2014 Retreat Group ShotWe have wrapped up a fantastic year at YEA! MN.  Our students have wrestled with big issues, learned about organizing, and taken action on projects they care about; all while going to high school, doing their homework, and participating in other community and extra curricular work.  I have never been so impressed and proud of a group of youth- no, scratch that, I have never been so proud of a group of people!

Each student earth club has completed at least one action project over the course of the year.  Each school has it’s unique challenges for students making each action plan was unique.  St. Paul Central High School completed a project multiple years in the making and had four hydration stations installed on campus.  These water fountains encourage students to use reusable water bottles to cut down on waste, pollution, and social justice concerns associated with single use bottles.  Central’s earth club, Roots and Shoots, fundraised creatively for the hydration stations through a variety events they hosted over multiple school years.

Minneapolis South Green Tigers also worked to install a hydration station. By fundraising and securing mini-grants when school starts next year they will have one installed in their hallway and funding and knowledge to continue to install several more in the coming year.  Similar to the campaign at Central, this project involved working with administrators, negotiating with businesses, educating other students about the issues, and capturing how this would change other students behaviors through project evaluation. You can read our student blog here: http://bit.ly/1r9gtPs

South completed several other action projects this year, building on their past success by hosting another Bike to School Week and bringing speakers into the earth club to facilitate discussion and learn more about other issues related to climate change, environmental justice, and sustainability.

Thanks to program support from the Hennepin County Green Partners Education Program, YEA! MN helped to start a new Earth Club this year, The Green Jaguars, at El Colegio Charter School in South Minneapolis.  With committed student and newly elected Co-Chair of the YEA! MN steering committee, Carlos, leading the way the Green Jaguars started an aquaponics system, hosted a grounds spring clean up, worked on the vegetable garden, and planted a butterfly garden.

Hopkins High School Earth Club took advantage of the Hennepin County Green Partners ‘Learning Trunks’ and taught elementary age students about recycling, its impact on the environment and how they can change their behavior.  They also teamed up with the high school’s social justice group and hosted “Donuts for Justice”, a speaker series inviting local leaders to come after school and talk about important issues at the intersection of the environment and justice; of course everyone who came got a donut!

At Eden Prairie High School students hosted an Earth Week with different events and actions each day, including the popular trash clean up competition with prizes for the team that collected the most pounds of trash.

These action projects were richer and more successful because of the support that each student received from their peers at other high schools through the YEA! MN steering committee.  Twice a month between 5 and 15 of our students met at the Will Steger Foundation office for a student-led steering committee meeting.  Shira and Bryn, our mighty Co-Chairs for the 2013-14 school year would lead students in project updates, planning events, and coordinate guest speakers on a range of topics.

Whew, what a year!  And that is just the school action projects.  Congratulations to all of our students for their amazing work! Stay tuned for an update on our civic engagement and student involvement at a community, state, and federal scale.

A core program of the Will Steger Foundation, YEA! MN  (Youth Environmental Activists Minnesota) supports a network of high school environmental clubs working together across the Twin Cities Metro to empower student leadership on climate change solutions, facilitate shared skills and strategies, and take coordinated action at home, at school, and in the wider community.

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