by Abby Hartig:
When the United Nations hosts a round of climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, Denmark in December, the youth voice will be heard loud and clear, thanks in part to Grand Valley State University student Danielle Ostafinski. Ostafinski has been appointed a youth delegate for the Will Steger Foundation’s Expedition Copenhagen to represent the youth of the Midwest. She is majoring in Liberal Studies with a Sustainable Community Development emphasis and a minor in Environmental Studies and Nonprofit Management. Ostafinski will use her experience as an organizer to involve high school students in activities to the understand international climate change talks. She will be presenting to and working with high school students throughout Michigan with the goal of engaging as many students as possible and providing them with the necessary tools to be effective leaders in their communities. Ostafinski said she believes it is important to equip students with leadership skills so they can be educated individuals who can actively participate in the decision-making process that concerns their future and the future of the world. “The delegation is representing the voice of the youth from the Midwest on an international level and pressuring the negotiators to create a bold, binding and progressive policy in Copenhagen,” Ostafinski said. The Will Steger Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to engaging youth in civic engagement focusing on the issue of climate change. Ostafinski connected with the foundation when she worked as an intern for the Sustainable Community Development Initiative and helped plan the Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition’s ReGeneration conference hosted by Grand Valley, “These experiences gave me the opportunities I needed to enhance my communication, organizing and public speaking skills, as well as, get me in contact with various media outlets,” Ostafinski said. One of Ostafinski’s biggest goals of her experience with Expedition Copenhagen is to make sure that the youth voice of the Midwest is heard loud and clear by the entire world. “Also, it is important to be an educated and engaged citizen in your country, as well as globally. To be able to recognize that we are all global citizens is to be an agent of positive change,” Ostafinski said.