During the 2014-2015 school year I had the privilege of receiving credit towards my senior year at DeLaSalle High School through an internship with Climate Generation’s YEA! MN program. I was fed up with the monotony of high school and was looking for work that I could be passionate about and that would give my life some sort of direction. I found that direction by working with YEA! MN and the Climate Generation team. I spent around fifteen hours each week working on various projects and campaigns for YEA! MN, from collecting comment cards on the Clean Power Plan to preparing for steering committee meetings to planning our first Youth CAN! climate conference. Though all my experiences at YEA! MN were invaluable, the single event that has had the strongest lasting impact on me was the 2015 Clean Energy and Jobs Youth Lobby Day.
After a successful and empowering morning in which well over a hundred high school students from around the Twin Cities met with their representatives and senators to push for a strengthened renewable energy standard in Minnesota, I had the awesome privilege of facilitating the student panel discussion with Governor Mark Dayton. Student representatives from our Clean Energy and Jobs coalition presented Governor Dayton with their personal narratives and questions, and the Governor gave strong and positive responses to most everything they had to say. He told the students present that he would absolutely give his personal support to a 40% renewable energy standard, which was great for us all to hear after so much hard work.
Lobby Day 2015 was an amazing experience for many reasons, but above all it demonstrated that when young people come together and organize, our voices have real power in affecting policy. It changed my thinking that lawmakers would discount the voices of young people; in fact, it seemed that they might have even taken us more seriously than professional lobbyists! After all, we were “lobbying” for our future, not on behalf of any company.
Today we are in the midst of some trying times for the future of pragmatic environmental and energy policy in the United States. Yet despite it all, my experience at Lobby Day is helping me to have faith in the fact that there are still good people working in state and local government and there are definitely still empowered citizens to push those officials when they might waver in the face of environmental policy retrenchment. Currently I am pursuing a degree in Comparative Politics and Environmental Policy & Decision Making at University of Puget Sound, and I can trace this path – as well as my future goals of working in local politics – back to my experiences working at YEA! MN and to the 2015 Lobby Day.