Published on November 15, 2021

Youth Climate Champions Gather for Annual Summit

Big group photo of all 2021 Youth Climate Summit participants © Phil Doyle
© Phil Doyle

The 5th Annual Western Mass Youth Climate Summit was held in late October at Arcadia's beautiful new outdoor pavilion. The event was co-hosted with partners from the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, but all planning and organizing was led by a team of Youth Leaders.

This annual youth-led conference is a critical part of Mass Audubon's Youth Climate Leadership Program. In total, 60 middle and high school students from six different Western Mass schools attended the summit along with their adult mentors. Participants came from Pittsfield, Northfield Mount Herman, Frontier Regional, Hampshire Regional, Northampton, and Suffield (CT).

Summit Recap

Western MA Youth Climate Summit 2021 lead team © Phil Doyle
© Phil Doyle

This year's theme was "Creative Climate Action." Youth Leader Ollie began the summit by explaining the event's format and purpose—to get inspiration and information to formulate a community Climate Action Project (CAP).

The first speaker was Emmalie Dropkin from Extinction Rebellion, who got everyone excited about large-scale, big impact actions to get attention for climate change legislation. Then Lynn Bowmaster explored the power of words in starting an environmental revolution. Rahul Roy encouraged students to use their talents to see the world differently and shift power to those who need it for a more just society. Finally, Youth Leader Morgan bravely shared her amazing heart-felt poetry about her own climate grief and anger.

After a locally-sourced plant-based lunch, students selected workshops led by the morning's presenters. They learned how to attract attention for their projects, identify stakeholders, use authentic voice, and draw on their own experience to strengthen the impact of their CAPs.

Just the Beginning

At the Summit closing, participants were invited to write their own takeaways, hopes, dreams, and/or favorite quotes on flags that will be displayed together to inspire others to join this positive climate action movement.

Work will continue through the school year as student teams create and implement their CAPs with support from monthly "office hours." In the spring, teams will reconvene to share their work with their peers at the Spring Solutions Showcase.

The organizing team is sincerely thankful to our sponsors—River Valley Co-op and the Howard Foundation—for making this year’s Youth Climate Summit possible.