Will Steger Foundation Hosts Youth Summit with Governor Dayton at Clean Energy Lobby Day
St. Paul, MN (February 2, 2015) — On a nearly snowless early February day, over 100 high school youth from the Will Steger Foundation’s Youth Environmental Activists (YEA! MN) program participated in the Clean Energy & Jobs “Day on the Hill,” lobbying their state legislators and meeting with Governor Dayton to discuss how climate change will impact their future. In the wake of the Risky Business Project study “Heat in the Heartland” that was released last week, the youth in attendance joined the call for a 40 percent Renewable Energy Standard by 2030 and urged Governor Dayton to continue his leadership on clean energy policy. During the Youth Summit with the Governor, youth leaders from four organizations – including Will Steger Foundation – spoke about why climate and energy issues are important to them, and the Governor candidly answered questions from the audience regarding his plans to address climate change.
Governor Dayton expressed strong support for an expanded renewable energy goal, saying he would keep pushing for more clean energy in the state and voicing the idea of a “coal-free future.” In addition, he shared students’ concern that Minnesota’s climate and energy future be equitable for all. He encouraged youth to share their ideas for how to promote clean energy policies in the state, and urged those in attendance to continue calling for policy action from their elected officials. Afterwards, the Governor stayed far past his time to leave, pausing to take a photo and talk to every youth that waited in line to visit with him
The strong youth component of the lobby day builds on the experience of the Will Steger Foundation’s high school program, Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota (YEA! MN), in engaging young people in the policy process. Since 2012, YEA! MN students have organized 10 in-district meetings and recruited over 300 youth to participate in an annual Lobby Day. These youth have played an integral role in influencing Governor Dayton’s climate leadership, supporting the Governor in vetoing a move to repeal part of the Next Generation Energy Act, helping to shape his 2013 State of the State speech, and participating in the Clean Energy & Jobs campaign to secure a solar standard in 2013.
“Youth have a powerful voice in shaping public opinion and legislative action around climate issues,” said Nicole Rom, Executive Director of the Will Steger Foundation. “They bring a moral urgency to the discussion by underscoring the need to secure a legacy of effective, equitable solutions to climate change for the next generation.”
For participating students, the day was an opportunity to advance what they see as common-sense solutions to a problem that threatens their future environment, health, and economic stability.
“It was a great opportunity to meet with the Governor today and to make sure that the voice of youth is heard,” said YEA! MN intern and DeLaSalle senior Kumar Flower Kay. “Clean energy is something we care about a lot, and it is important that our decision-makers take action on this issue now to protect the future of Minnesota.”
About the Will Steger Foundation and YEA! MN
The Will Steger Foundation (WSF) educates and empowers people to engage in solutions to climate change. A core program of WSF, YEA! MN 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 help students take coordinated action at home, at school, and in the wider community.
Read perspectives from youth attending the event: