California Youth Climate Policy Leadership Program Graduates Inaugural Cohort

By Ten Strands|December 20, 2023

December 20, 2023

Camille Soliva
Communications Specialist

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (December 20, 2023) – Ten Strands is proud to announce the successful conclusion of the California Youth Climate Policy Leadership Program (CYCP), a joint program of Ten Strands, the Sierra Club and UndauntedK12. Over the course of five months, high school students across California implemented advocacy campaigns to pass school board policies that support climate literacy, and empower young leaders to champion climate action in their communities.

Over three hundred students applied to be part of the inaugural cohort. The program launched in July with forty-six students, representing fifteen of California’s fifty-eight counties, and over twenty-five school districts. Embracing a diverse group of students for this program was essential as it brought a range of experiences and ideas to their specific climate challenges. We are proud to note that over eighty-five percent of our students identified as BIPOC, with thirty percent identifying as multi-racial.

Throughout the program, students engaged in monthly skill-building workshops that supported their journey in building a robust advocacy campaign, developing leadership skills, and networking with peers across the state. Students were also paired with mentors from the Sierra Club or college students who are youth environmental leaders, who provided assistance in various aspects of the program, such as developing a personal leadership plan, creating advocacy campaigns, and analyzing case studies. The intended outcome of the program was for students to develop and implement an advocacy campaign to pass a climate policy at their school district that supports climate literacy and action.

“This program equipped me with tools that I didn’t know I had and motivated me to refine ones that would benefit the environment. It was awesome meeting like-minded people for a good cause and to get that much closer to effecting change into our high schools.” said Sean Villegas, a senior from Merced County.

“I am very thankful that I was able to be a part of this program and delve into something that is so important in the world right now,” says Sharath Jyothi, a junior from North Hollywood High School. “This program allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and become a leader in my community. Creating the official resolution and speaking on public comment to the second largest school board was an amazing and fulfilling experience.”

CYCP culminated with students preparing a reflective case study that captured their experience in the program, and delivering a Capstone oral presentation to their peers, mentors, founders, and guests. The case studies were unique and equally impactful to each student, with examples ranging from advocacy campaigns focused on electrification, promotion of sustainable behavior through waste management, food waste, school acknowledgement of the climate crises, integrating environmental literacy into curriculum and instruction and many more amazing campaigns. Each presentation highlighted that these young leaders not only gained the resources and knowledge needed to be effective climate advocates in their communities but also set an inspiring example for how to develop and implement projects aligned with their passion and commitment to sustainability.

“It has been an incredible opportunity to get a chance and be a part of this program! I really enjoyed participating in the workshops, and getting to learn more about Climate Policy, and how to build and conduct your own campaign!” says Liliana Karesh of Napa, CA. “A goal of mine, in high school, was to actually construct a policy with a focus on climate and try to implement it.”

As we celebrate the conclusion and success of CYCP, Ten Strands extends its gratitude to all the students, mentors, and partners for their commitment to shaping a more sustainable and just world. We are especially grateful to the Stuart Foundation, Sierra Club Bay Area Chapter, Bob and Dana Emery, Daniel Chandler, and 350 Humboldt for investing in this pilot program. When it comes to climate solutions, youth have consistently served as a catalyst for change, and as we expand this program, our aspiration is to inspire more students to instigate positive transformations within their own communities. The program’s success stands as a testament to intergenerational collaboration and the dedication of the next generation of youth environmental leaders.

Read the CYCP Cohort 1 Final Case Studies.

Ten Strands
This article was written by Ten Strands

Ten Strands' mission is to strengthen the partnerships and strategies that will bring environmental literacy to all of California’s K–12 students. Our vision is a world where everyone understands and experiences the interrelatedness of people and place; where all students have access to high-quality education with an environmental component; and where all people have the knowledge, awareness, and ability to make decisions that promote health and wellbeing for themselves and their communities.