The power of young people has never been more evident – or important – as it is today. In honor of International Youth Day, I want to take a look back at some of the remarkable change driven by Earth Force young people.
Back in 1999, the United Nations endorsed this day as a dedication to celebrating young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace. Our society has changed so much in nearly two decades and we better understand the complex layers that lead to progress. Things like education, environmental protection, access to resources, and opportunity.
All of these things fall within the issues Earth Force students have addressed over the years. They’re creating cleaner, happier, healthier communities.
Take students in Wentzville, MO who worked with their city council to ensure multifamily housing has access to recycling. The students started by analyzing data generated from a series of city surveys about litter and recycling rates. Not only is the amount of litter in their town increasing, the recycling rate is decreasing. The City of Wentzville had a plan to increase recycling in single-family homes, but no plan to engage the growing number of people living in multifamily residences. The students immediately identified increasing recycling at multifamily developments as a place where they could make a difference.
The students began working with a local Home Owners Association and the City of Wentzville to draft a Multi-family Recycling policy. The policy was approved by the Board of Aldermen and will go into effect this year!
We had the privilege of working with students in Charleston, SC, who bridged two communities to provide equal access to fresh food and recreation by advocating for a pedestrian walkway on the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.
An article recently published in the Charleston Post and Courier said, “Just as the bridge is notable for its stunning design, its impressive engineering and indeed its very existence, it is notable for changing the attitudes and expectations of the local community… When members of Charleston Moves, the Coastal Conservation League, and Earth Force started the conversation, the concept was foreign to most people. State officials said it would be a waste of taxpayer money because no one would use it.”
And a 7th grade project focused on wetland restoration in the Chesapeake Watershed grew into a high school afterschool program. The Watershed Warriors teach 5th graders about wetlands and their importance. Together, they grow native grasses to plant in the spring, increasing the wetland’s ability to filter and purify the water. In the last three years, the program has engaged over 280 fifth graders from Alexandria City Public Schools.
These are just a few examples of the incredible power of young people. Are you doing your part?
Are you an educator? Do you ask your students what they care about and how it relates to their learning? Are you a community member? Are you getting young people’s input when you’re doing community planning? Are you a government official? Do you have young people at the table? Despite there being an international day recognizing the critical role of youth, there is still so much work to be done. Take a moment today to think about how you can better work with youth and engage them as leaders.
Author: Kristen Mueller
Kristen Mueller leads national communications, creating engagement and excitement around Earth Force, and its partners’, hands on, minds on programming. Specializing in traditional media and social media relations, she brings youth voice and leadership to the forefront of the environmental education field.