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Community Clean-Up and Youth Congress on Climate Justice

Sandra Santana
Although Earth Day was observed last Thursday, the celebration has not stopped on Mount Ida. Through community engagement opportunities (CEOs) and local environmental programming, the Emma Willard School community demonstrated their commitment to continuing the conversation on sustainable practices and finding ways to take action in the fight against environmental injustices in our community.

Over the weekend, Science Instructor and Sara Lee Schupf Family Chair in Curriculum Excellence and Innovation Megan Labbate and Interim Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Gemma Halfi organized a community clean-up on campus and the surrounding area. Mathematics Instructor Laszlo Bardos and Ms. Halfi led student groups to four clean-up zones and supplied all the necessary tools to collect trash and other items. By the end of the two-hour event, students had collected a significant amount of garbage from the designated areas, each filling an entire paper bag full of trash remnants. While moving about off campus, participants were encouraged to wear reflective clothing or clothing that is easily visible to motorists and all in attendance were reminded to adhere to all COVID-19 safety protocols.

This week, a number of Emma Willard students attended the Youth Congress on Climate Justice, a facet of The Sustainable Futures Conference which is a multi-day virtual event that will mainstream public discourse around the concept of sustainability practices. The two-day youth workshop was designed to “rebuild the youth climate movement in radical thought, introduce new activists to intersectionality, and expand experienced organizers' capacity.”

The Youth Congress on Climate Justice centered around political education and activist experiences. Participants explored questions such as “What is climate justice and why do I care?” while diving deep into reform and revolution, visionary activism, and solutionary tactics. In addition, a large emphasis was placed on having open conversation about how climate justice is prevalent in our own lives and learning more about the personal activism journeys of the Youth Congress panelists. 

Both sessions of the Youth Congress on Climate Justice began with a land acknowledgement. A land acknowledgement is a formal statement that recognizes and respects Indigenous Peoples as traditional stewards of this land and the enduring relationship that exists between Indigenous Peoples and their traditional territories. 

Youth Congress on Climate Justice volunteer and planner Izzy S. ’22 credits her time in an environmental science class last year at Emma Willard School for her introduction to activism. “I took an environmental science course and that definitely opened up my perspective to issues that were happening around our country and around the world and I felt that there was more that I could do than just sitting in a classroom.” In addition to her work with the Youth Congress, Izzy has taken the Science and Society class with Megan Labbate, which highlights how bodies of water have become polluted and the economic, social, political, and environmental issues that go along with it.

“I hope the Youth Congress gets people to think about how there's a lot of different things you can do in the world that can then connect to environmental science and better the environment.”

To learn more about Izzy’s involvement with activism and the Youth Congress for Climate Justice, listen to her interview with Media Sanctuary here.
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    • Community Clean-Up on Campus

    • Community Clean-Up on Campus

    • Community Clean-Up Zones

    • Izzy S. '22

    • Youth Congress on Climate Justice

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