Empowering Youth Voices for Climate Action

By Will Booth|January 3, 2024

On December 7, the California Youth Climate Policy (CYCP) Leadership Program gathered for a final time to celebrate the progress of the first cohort of youth climate advocates. The virtual graduation event was hosted by the partner organizations of the program (Ten Strands, Sierra Club, and UndauntedK12) to acknowledge the dedication and achievements of its participants, mentors, and staff. Through this pilot program, the program partners developed a bright idea into a tangible reality, which exceeded expectations and left an indelible mark on climate policy and students within California’s high school systems. Learn more about the development of this program and early launch from our previous article covering the launch of the program in September 2023.

Remarkably, out of the forty-six participants who embarked on this journey, an impressive forty emerged as climate leaders, successfully completing the co-curricular program. Through this knowledge-to-action program, the youth advocates that participated became proactive agents of change within their educational communities, as can be seen in a few program testimonials from CYCP Cohort 1 student participants:

  • At the conclusion of this program, I feel empowered to make a difference in my community and in the world. THANK YOU CYCP! This experience has truly shaped the person that I am today, enforcing my ideal to become a future leader of this world and protect the beautiful planet we are all fighting for.
  • I am so grateful to have been a part of this program! I have really learned how to be persistent and how to communicate effectively. The mentors were helpful in guiding me as I grew as a leader and implemented my campaign. And it has been really amazing to see other students across California who are engaged in making change regarding the climate crisis.
  • It’s been an amazing experience to realize my potential. I am so thankful for this program for equipping me with that not only for my future but for right now. It was also amazing to see so many other students striving for a better world and participating in making change.
  • As I reflect on my journey through the climate youth policy program, a wave of pride washes over me. Witnessing the impact of our collective efforts, from influencing local policies to shaping public discourse, fills me with a profound sense of accomplishment. This program has been a transformative experience, not just for the environment but for my own personal growth. Through workshops, advocacy campaigns, and collaboration with inspiring leaders, I have gained invaluable knowledge and honed my skills in policy analysis, communication, and social activism. I will forever remember the passionate discussions, hearing about others’ obstacles, and the moments of shared victory. The program has instilled in me a deep sense of responsibility and ownership towards the future of our planet. It has ignited a fire within me, a commitment to continue fighting for a just and sustainable world. This program has been more than just an initiative; it has been a catalyst for my personal evolution, a journey of self-discovery, and a testament to the power of collective action.

Impactful Advocacy and Challenges Turned into Opportunities

Equipped with knowledge, passion, and a commitment to environmental sustainability, CYCP participants advocated for climate-based resolutions and board policies within their schools and districts by organizing awareness events and presenting compelling arguments at school board meetings. In doing so, CYCP has engaged a crowd of youth climate leaders across the state who have initiated a wave of positive change. Their efforts have not only raised awareness but have also contributed to the implementation of concrete policies that promote sustainability and environmental responsibility.

The path to success was not without its challenges. Navigating bureaucratic processes, addressing skepticism, and overcoming resistance required determination and resilience. Yet, each hurdle became an opportunity for growth and learning. The CYCP participants not only honed their advocacy skills but also developed a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding climate policy implementation in educational institutions. 

Much of this growth would not have been possible without the dedication of over twenty-five volunteer mentors who were paired with student leaders and provided ongoing monthly coaching sessions to support their leadership growth and advocacy campaign planning. Like students, mentors were also grateful to have participated in this first cohort, and their testimonials reveal their thrill at seeing the impact of these amazing student leaders:

  • It’s been six months of intensive learning and progress on passing policy, and I could not be more proud of the progress and persistence that not only my mentees but all the students participating in this program have shown. Being able to see both youth and mentors gain confidence in navigating the world of policy and legislation has been incredible. There’s so much that we can do to support students, to empower them to make a change, and to grow their own skills.
  • As a mentor, I learned a lot and feel grateful to have had this opportunity. The materials and resources were well organized and easy to use, and I appreciated the guidance and persistent joy that program facilitators brought to this program. I am also so impressed with the maturity, enthusiasm, and perseverance of the students as the program progressed.
  • This program is just what we need during this critical climate crisis. Working with dedicated students in this program made climate action less daunting and terrifying. Knowing that these students are our upcoming leaders is very reassuring. Thank you to all of the staff and sponsors for providing this opportunity to such a talented group of young leaders.

Building a Legacy and Looking Forward

As the program concludes, the impact of the CYCP Leadership Program extends beyond its immediate achievements. It has sown the seeds for a lasting legacy of youth-driven environmental advocacy. The program has inspired a new generation of leaders who are aware of the pressing climate issues and actively engaged in creating solutions.

While the CYCP Leadership Program may have officially ended, many of its graduates are poised to continue their journey as ambassadors for climate action. The skills acquired, networks built, and lessons learned during the CYCP Program will undoubtedly propel many young leaders toward future endeavors in sustainability and activism.

In conclusion, the CYCP Leadership Program has proven that through agency and support, youth can be powerful advocates for change. The success of this program serves as a beacon of hope, highlighting the potential for collaborative efforts to address climate challenges within educational institutions. As these graduates move forward, they carry with them a feeling of pride and empowerment to shape a sustainable future.

Will Booth
This article was written by Will Booth

As an aspiring environmentalist, Will Booth sought out the Climate Corps Fellowship with Ten Strands with the purpose of launching his career in environmental sustainability. Prior to joining Ten Strands, Will found work amid the global pandemic as a contractor’s apprentice for David Grubb Construction, Inc., where he assisted in facilitating LEED-certified residential remodels while following Green Halo Systems waste diversion guidelines. Before that, he worked at Bartlett Tree Experts where he provided scientific residential and commercial tree care by properly pruning and cabling branches, as well as performing pest and disease management on the local flora. Besides being a part of the education system himself, Will did not hold specific work experience related to education or environmental literacy. He is especially grateful to Ten Strands for providing a pivot point and the opportunity to contribute in whatever way he can to create a more equitable and sustainable future. Will holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Geology from Whitman College.