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Thursday, 22 January 2015 20:26

YEA! MN for democratic action!

ydsThe Youth Democracy Summit on January 17th was an extremely powerful and motivating experience. It was inspiring to see such a multitude of strong, smart, and driven young organizers all in one place. Going to the small-group panel on sustainable transportation in the 21st century was interesting to me because I was able to gain a perspective on the transportation issues that are present in greater Minnesota. Growing up in Minneapolis, I have always had many different transportation options available to me. I have the luxury of great bike lanes and bus routes that can efficiently get me anywhere in the city. People living in places like Mankato or Duluth don’t have those options, which then becomes an equity issue. I wasn’t aware of these things until we discussed them in a group with people living all around the state.

Six Midwest Youth Climate Orgs Receive Funding for Critical Initiatives

The Will Steger foundation has been a key ally in building the youth climate moment across the Midwest. Since 2007 WSF has been actively working with partner organizations across the generational spectrum to support youth climate leadership across the region. This includes a robust network of youth organizations and a close relationship with the RE-AMP network, a coalition of over 120 environmental non-profit organizations and Foundations across the Midwest.

WSF has played a key role in connecting Midwest youth organizations with RE-AMP funding opportunities, specifically in regards to RE-AMP 'Allies' Funding through the Global Warming Strategic Action Fund. This includes outreach and engagement to strategic youth allies, mentorship on grant proposals, and facilitation of regional communication among Midwest youth applicants to foster a coordinated approach to the RE-AMP funding opportunity. The following is a list youth initiatives funded by RE-AMP in 2011. WSF is proud to support these vibrant initiatives and recognizes the critical role they play in the larger environmental movement.

Global Exchange: Green Economy Leadership Training, Detroit, MI
GELT organizers worth with local youth in Highland Park MI

Global Exchange: Green Economy Leadership Training, Detroit, MI

Global Exchange's Green Economy Leadership Training (GELT) program educates, engages and empowers youth to be active agents of change in building the necessary clean energy, green economy future. The program trains youth and community members in practical skills that will empower them to improve their communities, such as environmental justice, energy conservation, renewable energy, green building technology, water conservation, waste diversion (recycling and composting), urban agriculture and food security and urban forestry. Seizing the opportunity to begin a new era of organizing, the GELT program deploys community-based solutions that break from conventional thinking and puts the emphasis on empowering individuals and communities.

Little Village Environmental Justice Organization: Neighborhood Transit Access

Little Village Environmental Justice Organization: Neighborhood Transit Access
LVEJO organizers demand transit access

Little Village environmental Justice Organization(LVEJO) has created the coalition 'Communities for a 31st Bus Route' to advocate for transit access for 6 different Chicago neighborhoods, including Little Village (noted as one of the top 6 most polluted areas in the Chicago Metro), and to serve a ridership of over 100,000 people, mostly low-income. Along with a dozen diverse partners, the transit access campaign engages local youth through LVEJO programming in leadership training, community outreach, and grassroots organizing. The campaign will target key legislators and seeks to save up to 500 tons of C02 per year.

Grand Aspirations: Our Power Campaign, Minneapolis/Iowa City

Grand Aspirations is expanding its Our Power campaign in South Minneapolis, MN and replicating it in Iowa City, IA. The campaign focuses on building diverse alliances in support of energy efficiency and clean energy at the neighborhood and city level and integrating implementation of energy efficiency and clean energy with movement building. Our Power unites local youth, community groups, and businesses from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds in support of a clean energy economy. Local and national youth leaders will act as community energy leaders to engage 500 residents and 50 businesses in Minneapolis, and 125 residents and 10 businesses in Iowa City, in energy efficiency and clean energy measures.

Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group: Energy Service Corps Program

Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) is in the second year of its Energy Service Corps Program launched in partnership with Americorps. Through direct citizen outreach and partnerships with local institutions the program engages youth leadership at the University of Wisconsin Steven's Point and the University of Wisconsin Madison in reaching diverse constituencies with demonstrations, presentations, and home inspections that highlight the potential of efficiency to save energy, save the environment and save money. Student "Energy Efficiency Ambassadors' will encourage residents to conduct subsidized energy audits and home weatherization.

Minnesota Public Interest Research Group: Minnesota Youth Alignment
MPIRG student organizers at the University of MN Morris

Minnesota Public Interest Research Group: Minnesota Youth Alignment

Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG) seeks to engage it's statewide youth network in support of the following 3 key campaign areas funded by RE-AMP for member organizations in Minnesota. Solar Works for Minnesota: MPIRG will leverage it's relationships of three University of MN campuses to push to legislature for guaranteed pricing for public buildings that develop solar and other renewable energy resources. Defend Clean Energy Laws and Regulations: MPIRG will engage, educate and mobilize it's student network in defense of Minnesota's clean energy policy foundation. Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled: MPIRG will launch an education and advocacy campaign targeting Duluth Transit Authority and push for transit solutions that better serve the needs of student riders.

Illinois Student Environmental Coalition: Chicago Coal Campaign

Illinois Student Environmental Coalition: Chicago Coal Campaign
ISEC organizers join a human banner targeting Chicago Mayor Emmanuel

Illinois Student Environmental Coalition seeks to continue its collaboration with the Chicago Clean Power Coalition(CCPC) to retire two existing coal plants in the city. The campaign is at a critical juncture and support from students is essential to advancing the work of the coalition. ISEC has been key to the CCPC movement over the past year and will continue to work with the Coalition to empower and engage it's state network of student leaders to effectively target the Mayor of Chicago and City Council.


Published in Youth Action

Summer of Solutions Detroit launches their Green Energy Economy Training in the inner-city Highland Park neighborhood
As summer temps soar across the Midwest so does youth climate activism as momentum grows at an exponential pace across the region. Power Shift 2011 was revealing as Midwest youth participation made up almost a quarter of the 10,000 youth in attendance. But if Power Shift is the indicator, youth themselves are the cause. The Midwest is home to many of the most influential young visionaries in the youth climate movement today and several of the youth initiatives and programs that have been building over the past several years have started to catch fire.

At a glance, the Midwest hosts two of the most exciting programs in country. The ripple effect from Summer of Solutions, launched in 2008 by Grand Aspirations (a youth start-up non-profit based in St Paul, MN), can be felt across the U.S. What began as a local initiative has grown to include 16 youth-run summer programs across the country, including Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland and Iowa City. Not only are youth implementing clean energy solutions on the ground, they are also building new partnerships with local businesses, schools, community members, and local policy makers, and creating the green jobs vital to the transition to a clean energy economy. This focus on 'sustainable cities' parallels a growing focus area for Midwest environmental non-profits and foundations and lends itself to exciting cross-generational collaboration. The Will Steger Foundation is proud to play a role in fostering these connections through our Emerging Leaders Program.

Summer of Solutions Twin Cities youth flex their muscle at the Peace Haven community garden
The Ohio Student Environmental Coalition (OSEC) is another hot spot on the youth climate map. Currently funded through the Energy Action Coalition and fiscally sponsored by Global Exchange, OSEC has grown in leaps and bounds over the past year. Funding for a full-time Coordinator position has made a huge difference, and enable to statewide network to expand include more schools and a wider range of projects. Perhaps most exciting is the OSEC Don't Frack with Ohio campaign. Student organizers are working closely with community groups and non-profit partners to host strategic meetings across the state. The meetings have had strong turn out and drawn interest from local/state policy makers. The Coalition is also running several other campaigns including the Lake Erie Off-Shore Wind Project, Ohio Beyond Coal, and Smart Transportation for a Smart Generation. OSEC is currently one of the largest and most effective statewide youth network in the country, and is a valuable example of what a well-structured and effective youth network can look like. Janina Klimas, OSEC Coordinator, is also taking the lead in planning Midwest Power Shift, to be held Oct. 7-9 at Cleveland State University.

Summer of Solutions Iowa City youth at ZJ Farm, run in the model of community-sponsored-agriculture
While these two programs are making an impact on the wider youth movement, youth orgs and programs across the Midwest are hard at work this summer, sweating it out on a variety of issues. WISPIRG is holding Wisconsin Gov. Walker's feet to fire drawing attention to his spending on new roads vs. investment in existing infrastructure and clean transportation options, along with a new community weatherization program. MPIRG is working actively at the municipal level on solid waste legislation as part of their Greener Minneapolis program. National Wildlife Federation, based in Michigan, is continuing it's outreach to community colleges on green jobs training through their Greenforce Initiative. The Sierra Student Coalition welcomed a new Director this spring and just wrapped up their annual Midwest youth training (SPROG) in Indiana this July.


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