By Leah Ward
February 22, 2020
WORTHINGTON — Worthington High School senior Mekdelawit “Mickey” Tilahun will lead a group of her peers headed next week for the Youth Climate Justice Summit 2020 in St. Paul.
“I’ve always been interested in the environment, ever since I was young,” Tilahun said.
She started becoming politically active following the 2016 election, which she described as a “catalyst” for her activism.
“I started looking into what he (Trump) stands for to learn what I should be worried about,” she said.
In her research, Tilahun learned about the Flint, Michigan water crisis, the dispute over the Dakota Access Pipeline and the appointment of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator, to name a few of her environmental concerns.
The young organizer said she gives credit to the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America organization, supervised locally by WHS Family and Consumer Science teacher Bonnie Bents, for helping her grow as a leader. Bents facilitated public speaking and leadership workshops that gave Tilahun the confidence to speak up for environmental justice.
Tilahun’s personal climate advocacy led her to create an environmental studies club at WHS. Comprised of 16 students, the club promotes individual actions and public policies that favor environmental stewardship.
She also joined Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota (YEA! MN), an organization that supports climate literacy, political education and organizing skills. She is part of the YEA! MN leadership team, and attends Monday meetings via Zoom video chat to discuss how to mobilize youth and secure resources throughout the state to propel climate change solutions.
As part of this work, YEA! MN hosts the Youth Climate Justice Summit.
A number of the WHS environmental studies club members, along with their faculty advisor, will attend the summit all day Wednesday. Tilahun explained that the group will be able to network with about 200 students from other schools and share ideas. They will also meet with legislators and Gov. Tim Walz.
“It’s a really good opportunity for the students here,” she said.
Although Tilahun is graduating this year and going to college in Texas, the WHS environmental club intends to build on her leadership by expanding its efforts to include the whole Worthington community.