I am feeling full.
I’ve spent my last five months working alongside high schoolers, and we have done deep work. Along the way, they reminded me of the things that make youth leadership so special. I want to honor these young people’s year of work together by seeing some of their superpowers.
Roll deep. When I started in January, I came to the first YEA! MN network meeting and I immediately saw that students in YEA! MN don’t just show up – they show up with friends! Students turned out from six different schools, and no one came alone. They learned how to lobby their legislators, and since they came with buddies, they had a crew to bring that knowledge back to their schools. In the weeks after, we led nine more lobby trainings, something no one could have done alone. And on Lobby Day, this collective impact was on full display when over 200 students turned out and handed the governor over 1,000 climate justice postcards! That’s power.
Speak truth nonstop. YEA! MN youth bring the realness every day, so it’s a wonder there aren’t mics in their hands more often. This year students used their voices to spark dialogue about racial justice at their schools, to raise money for climate justice work, to hold politicians accountable, and to rally their peers to action. But let’s be honest, they don’t need a mic. Just ask the youth who led chants in DC, at their schools, or during a march into the MN Senate Building. Want a taste of what they’re saying? Check out powerful high schoolers speaking at the People’s Climate March and the National Adaptation Forum.
Surprise! In February, I came to my desk one evening after a Core meeting and found little notes hidden around. “Greetings Jason! Have a good day / night / evening” was one, snuck into my drawer under a stapler. To this day I don’t know who left it, but it warmed my heart in a way that only a surprise note could. I have a hunch it was the same student who offered me a high five and then SLAPPED my hand with all their might, leaving my hand stinging and me bent over with laughter. It’s in the surprises that I’m reminded of our powerful creativity and how much we care for each other: when a student turns to a student from another school and says “Would you show me what’s in your sketchbook?” When the same people who taught our workshop on rural fossil fuel industries take us to their chicken coop… and put chickens on our heads. When students tell me “Um.. DUH we want to have a sack race!”
The youth climate movement has spontaneity, has fierceness, has love. YEA! MN showed me that.
I will miss seeing the students who graduated, but their power lives on in their work ahead, and in the rising high schoolers taking the mantle of MN’s youth climate movement. We ended our year together with a chant that I can honestly say I yell with complete sincerity. Thanks to these youth, now more than ever before: