Bay Area Student Empowers Youth to Shape Climate Policy with Seminar
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Bay Area Student Empowers Youth to Shape Climate Policy with Seminar

The Climate Leaders Fellowship guides high school students in researching climate change effects within their own communities and finding solutions they can implement locally. Students partner with local organizations to launch their projects and collaborate with other students around the world to achieve their goals.

The fellowship is offered as a collaboration between Stanford University’s Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

Read Jayden’s guest post about his experience below!

Jayden Wan
Burlingame High School
Burlingame, California

Hey everyone! I’m Jayden, a rising high school junior in Burlingame, California. I’m hoping to debut in a career related to both architectural design and environmental studies, with many of my interests – 3D modeling/printing, graphic design, climate advocacy, etc. – culminating into the path that I’ve traveled this far.

Currently, I help lead various youth-led nonprofits oriented around environmental advocacy, and joined this year’s cohort of the Climate Leaders Fellowship in the spirit of securing a safe future for not just us, but also the generations to come.

Although assigned to the Climate Leaders Fellowship’s waste cohort, I felt that I’d want to leverage my previous experiences and connections forged in climate advocacy to extend my project’s potential. Of course, waste is a prominent issue when it comes to climate change, from food to electronics to clothing to everything else; in California, though, with systems of waste disposal being relatively decent in contrast to other regions, I felt inclined to push the boundaries a bit, transforming my ideas into an initiative that tackled not just waste, but much of the forces driving climate change itself. I decided to tackle climate policy.

Project Context

Why climate policy?

Well, let’s start with climate change itself: increasing temperatures, sea level rise, extreme weather patterns, and so on. Many of us, concerned for the future, make efforts to drive different domains of our lives toward sustainability, from recycling, composting, clean-ups, tree-planting, fundraisers, recycling, composting, boycotting, protests, donations, and all of our other means of showing support for the natural world.

But overall progress is still ever-so-slow in the midst of ambitious climate goals and a world whose issues grow more irreversible as each day passes.

Ultimately, what matters even more than what the average citizen does is what’s done by those who have the power to make genuine, lasting reform – the government.

The power of policy – specifically, climate policy – in combating climate change is the most effective way to secure a safer future for all. It has the ability to make changes that influence not just individuals or communities, but cities, states, and nations as a whole.

“Youth for Climate Policy”

That’s why “Youth for Climate Policy,” an informational, interactive webinar led by myself and various other entities, specifically focused on educating youth on the importance of influencing governments in driving climate policy.

The message expressed throughout the event emphasized the significance of pursuing climate adaptation from both the top-down and bottom-up; to fight climate change not just as people, but as entire states, nations, and countries. “Youth for Climate Policy” distinguished the imperative extent to which the government holds dominion over climate change, and why we, as advocates for the environment, should care.

“Collaboration, not opposition.”

“Youth for Climate Policy” was led by not just myself, but also California State Senator Josh Becker, as well as four former Bay Area mayors (Terry Nagel – City of Burlingame, Georgi LaBerge – Redwood City, Kirsten Keith – City of Menlo Park, Mark Olbert – City of San Carlos). The very essence of the event noted the importance of working together on issues of climate change, and to have youth at the forefront as the stewards of the planet’s future.

At the face of it, Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action and Sustainable San Mateo County led the event, and 350 Silicon Valley, Acterra, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and Peninsula Clean Energy co-sponsored it.

I represented Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action, spearheading the coordination, outreach, and overall direction of the event. From Sustainable San Mateo County, both student and adult environmental advocates – including the former mayors – supported the planning and execution of the event. As for our cosponsors, they aided in the event’s promotion via social media and student ambassadors.

It was a pretty great event, I feel. Even over Zoom, engagement was high enough to go past our predetermined 1-hour timeframe. About 70 participants – many of which were youth – supported the event, and we decided to give away EarthHero gift cards as a sort of prize/incentive. A post-event Google Forms for participants indicated to us that we’d done well, being that we received valuable, comprehensive feedback on what was learned and what attendees were still curious about.

Additionally, a “Next Steps” Slideshow was shared with all participants; a comprehensive list of Bay Area youth environmental organizations.

Burlingame B News Feature

Sustainable San Mateo County Blog Feature

Climate Leaders Fellowship Reflection

At a glance, the Climate Leaders Fellowship is a community of students that supports itself in making strides toward environmental reform and adaptation. The program’s fellows, although in different places throughout the world, are united in a shared mission to make a meaningful impact in their community, working toward further progress in efforts to mitigate climate change.

Personally, I was able to network and collaborate with other youth in ideating my own potential for making a positive impact on my surroundings, and I gained the support to be able to follow through with my ideas and my project.

The Climate Leaders Fellowship helped me transform my ideas into a reality through the support of student mentors, peers, and a community that was always open to helping out. It’s wonderful to see everyone’s progress throughout time, and to see that we can make a difference if we just take that first step.

As for me, I’m hoping to make “Youth for Climate Policy” a recurring event. The Climate Leaders Fellowship has inspired me to expand my goals beyond a one-time deal. I’ll keep at it, using all that I’ve learned during my time here. Thank you all.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.