Thursday, June 20, 2024

How do I become a youth activist? – Climate Generation

Must read

How do I become a youth activist? Two lessons learned and five ways to get started!

Two former Youth Environmental Activists have come back to join the Climate Generation Team. We took some time to ask them what lessons they learned as youth organizers and how others can get started.

Zoe Redfern-Hall

How did you become a youth activist?

I was always passionate about environmental and food systems at school, and I started looking for groups to get involved with – that’s when I found YEA! (Youth Environmental Activists). Being in the YEA program changed the trajectory of my life – it showed me how to organize.

What did you learn?

Walking into my first YEA! meeting, I thought maybe I’d learn something new about climate change. By then, I had learned some things about climate change but didn’t understand climate justice. I came to the program with some understanding of food systems and was interested in joining a community of youth. 

I remember being asked by another student, “What is it that you want to do in your community?” At that moment, I realized I’d never asked myself how and why I wanted to make a difference. I had never been asked what I wanted. 

I want to build a world where young people are believed in and respected and where we embody the world we want to live in now. I want to live in a world where we can gain power for the many and enact justice.

I left that first YEA! meeting with a new sense of what could be. As I continued working with a group of students and organizing others, it led me to see myself as a leader. YEA! taught me how to organize my peers and neighbors. I learned what it meant to understand institutions and map power. 

By the time I graduated from high school and the YEA! program, I understood my climate story and how I wanted to enact change in the world. Working in a group to organize is so powerful, and that was a big lesson learned for me.

Throughout my three years as a part of YEA! and Climate Generation, I gained a holistic climate justice education, and I began to take action and organize around the racist HERC trash burner. The same HERC trash burner we are still resisting today, almost ten years later. YEA! drove me to study political science so I understood political institutions and power more deeply. 

A story is a powerful thing. My career path has led me to craft narratives to elevate the causes of nonprofit organizations, and now I’ve come full circle to advance the work of Climate Generation. When people understand the “personal” in a policy through a story – it builds trust, connection, engagement, and ultimately action. Climate Generation uplifts and inspires conversation through storytelling and organizing about what the climate movement needs right now – in our local community here in the Twin Cities in the YEA! program or on a global scale at COP. 

Climate Generation puts so much into the youth, educators and community it serves. I can’t wait to start a new chapter of my story with you, Climate Generation!

Athena Greer
Athena Geer

How did you become a youth activist?

When I first learned about the concept of climate change, it was through the lens of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis. In 2018, there was a significant push to establish gardens in my neighborhood because Cedar residents wanted access to more fresh food and produce. Witnessing this immediate need, I wanted to help, but with limited resources and tools, and lacking in-depth knowledge, it felt like I couldn’t assist the people who mattered most to me.

It was during a visit to the lunchroom by the YEA! Coordinator that I was encouraged to attend a Wednesday meeting of YEA! to learn more about their work and how I could get involved in the climate movement.

Hearing those words for the first time, “How I could get involved,” made me feel empowered for the first time like I was able to be part of the larger solution to help my communities and others around me. 

Climate justice is not just about saving the world; it encompasses the intersecting values of why we do this work and why young people have powerful and brilliant ideas to bring to the table, not just in presence alone but through action as well.

As the years went on, with my learning and involvement through YEA!, I became part of a larger coalition of students called “MN Youth Climate Strike,” where we organized a student-wide walkout demanding divestments from fossil fuel companies. 

What did you learn?

The moment students left their classrooms to march to the capital to be heard and seen made me realize the sense of community, visibility, and being heard. 

That’s when I recognized the importance of YEA! because that coordinator asked me one question, and now my life is forever changed.

Now, I am a Youth Coordinator for Climate Generation, and I am dedicated to this work because I believe that the climate movement will be an ongoing, ever-intersectional fight. I aim to disseminate knowledge about the climate crisis and what I’ve learned to educate and support communities, placing care and intention at the center.

Here are some ways you can start taking action as a youth activist: 

  1. Talk to your peers:
    • Start by talking to your peers about it! A great way to get involved is to info share with you friends, peers and family members
  1. Start an ECO club at your school:
    • One of the first way you can get involved is by working with other students around your school on the eco-systems at your school (Are they using a recycling system? How can you make that system better?)
  1. Join a group of other youth activists in your area
    • A great way to build power and organize is connecting with people who are already doing the work. Check at your school or at local organizations if they have youth committees or programs specifically working on organizing and local and state level policy, like YEA!
  1. Research!
    • There will always be grassroot level groups and organizations doing a lot of the same actions you are wanting to do. Try and find ways to get involved like canvassing or attending meetings.
  1. Talk to your lawmakers:

Becoming climate activists changed both of our lives, and you can take action too! Interested in learning more about how youth-led community organizing works? Check out our YEA page!

More articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest article