Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
Woman holding binoculars Join today and get outside at one of our 60+ wildlife sanctuaries.
boardwalk trail through a grassy meadow
Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Wellfleet

Youth Climate Leaders Making an Impact on the Cape

March 07, 2024

Do you have the guts to speak up in front of your community at a town meeting? Town Halls and community governments are one of the best ways that individuals, especially those below voting age, can use their voice to help enact change. But speaking in these settings can be nerve-wracking and hard.

To empower youth and build their skills, over 90 students from seven Cape and Island high schools gathered to practice public speaking in the Sandwich Town Hall last month.

This impactful exercise was just one part of the Youth Climate Action Summit’s full day agenda. The summit, now in its 4th year on Cape Cod, is part of Mass Audubon’s larger Youth Climate Leadership Program (YCLP) that brings youth leaders together with other climate-conscious students across the state to advocate for change.  

Group of Youth Climate Action Summit attendees posing for a picture behind a banner of the same name

Planning for Change

Throughout the year, the Cape’s youth leaders work with Mass Audubon mentors to create the summit’s agenda. In addition to the public speaking exercise, the youth leaders brought in the Association to Preserve Cape Cod’s Andrew Gottlieb as the keynote and secured local experts to deliver informed presentations including one by Mashpee Wampanoag Youth on “The Rights of Nature.”  

Six months of planning effort proved worthwhile by youth leaders. “My favorite part of the day was seeing the shift in people’s faces from when they arrive and when they leave,” said Charlie Jenkins, a Mashpee High School senior, in her second year with the YCLP. “[Attendees are] faced with eco-grief anxiety and this summit gives folks an opportunity to take action and work together.”  

Utilizing Skills for the Greater Good

The impact of the summit didn’t end with the conclusion of the day’s event. Several students independently applied their new skills to issues that moved them personally in their community. Just six days after the summit, Dylan Moreno, Bode Corona, and Noah Sheasley of Sturgis Charter School provided public comments at the Barnstable Town Council meeting on wind farm energy in their town.  

The students delivered their perspectives on the issue in a meaningful and well-executed fashion, as illustrated by Dylan’s prepared comments that he shared with us. 

Youth Climate Action Summit attendee addressing the Sandwich Town Hall, seen from above the audience

“While I cannot offer scientific knowledge to the extent that others can here today, what I can offer is a unique perspective that is often overlooked in many aspects of our town legislation, proposals and decision making. As a young student experiencing firsthand the many effects of climate change not only globally but on a local scale, it becomes evident that action must be taken. [By]participating in the Youth Climate Action Summit this past Friday hosted by Mass Audubon, I was able to connect with other young students who feel as passionate about the subject as I do. Talking with local ambassadors and leaders in the climate change effort, it became ever more apparent that adaptive measures to prevent climate change are simply not enough. Renewable energies are the most effective way that we as a society can phase out harmful fossil fuels.”  

A Community Effort

The Youth Climate Action Summit is truly a collaborative effort. We extend special thanks to the community of environmental and climate professionals who showed up to support and engage these students: APCC, WHOI, Food Rescue US, Sierra Club Cape Cod, Eve Zuckoff, Cape Cod Commission, Wildcare, Dr. Kumara Sidhartha, ARC Shellfish, Alchemy Farms, the Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative and to the High School teachers and students who took time out of their school day to attend with open minds and hands ready to take action.  

Support Future Youth Climate Leaders

YCLP members are already looking ahead to planning the 2025 summit and are excited to continue empowering other youth in the climate movement!  

If you are Cape-based student interested in joining the Youth Climate Leadership Program, please contact Morgan Peck