Another academic year has come and gone, and once again our Climate Leadership Fellows cohort has achieved some truly tremendous things in communities across the country.
Climate Leadership Fellows are selected for one academic year to be trained and supported by Y.E.C.A. to be climate action leaders on their campuses and in their churches by hosting conversations, organizing their peers, and advocating for structural change. Here’s a glimpse at what our 2017-18 cohort was up to this year.
A senior at King University in Bristol, TN, Nicola used her final year on campus to make a lasting impact. She founded a student environmental organization called Environmental Positive Impact at King (EPIK) that recruited over a dozen of her peers to work for systemic change on campus. Their primary work was to launch a campus-wide recycling program from scratch that succeeded at getting bins in every residence hall and increasing recycling on campus by 100% in one year. As a student athlete, she also spoke to her chapter of FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) early in the year about our role as earth keepers and the importance of caring for God’s creation. EPIK also hosted a Waste Awareness Day, where they collected trash from all receptacles on campus and dumped it on main lawn with educational signs about waste and waste reduction. It sparked a campus-wide conversation overnight!
A student at Malone University in Canton, OH, Mykal focused her efforts this year on offering educational events for her peers on campus and on getting a student organization off the ground. In the fall, Mykal partnered with a youth climate organization called The Sunrise Movement to educate her classmates about the realities of climate change and to give them concrete ways to take action. In the spring, she worked to bring various faith leaders from the area together to have a panel discussion about the moral imperatives to act on climate. In addition to these campus events, Mykal founded a new student organization that will function as the student activism arm of the new environmental studies major at Malone. Mykal is returning to campus next year as a senior to continue to build on the work she has already done.
Christine was a senior at Gordon College in Wenham, MA this past year, and she started making an impact before the school year even started. Already in the summer of 2017, she was organizing a van to take interested students to the local farmers market for the month of September to expose them to their local food system and to give them access to fresh fruits and vegetables. After September, she turned her attention to hosting Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, Y.E.C.A.’s national organizer and spokesperson, on campus for chapel, a lecture, a workshop, and several class visits, engaging almost 1,000 of her peers over the two-day visit. However, her primary focus over the year was toward her big project goal: pushing for solar panels as her senior class gift. Through her persistent and winsome advocacy, Christine succeeded in having the class gift approved. However, that was when her work truly began—getting 80% of her class to donate to the gift. Through creative marketing, compelling messaging, and an easy app-based giving option, Christine succeeded at engaging the vast majority of her class in donating to the gift. As a result, solar panels will be erected on Grace Residence Hall in the fall!
A senior at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI, Melody focused most of her efforts this year not on her campus but in her church. Knox Presbyterian is a large congregation with a passion for justice issues, but creation care and climate change was almost nowhere on its radar. Melody wanted to change that, so she went to work—one conversation at a time. She found other members who were passionate about creation care and climate action but weren’t sure what to do about it or where to start. Eventually, Melody convened these 16 like-minded members together in a church group called “The Green Team”. Together, they advocated for everything from small changes at the church like buying bulk sugar for coffee and a “Bring Your Own Mug” campaign to larger changes like replacing over 300 fluorescent bulbs throughout the church with LEDs and hosting a Creation Care Sunday—complete with guest preacher, creation-based worship sets, and creation care take home materials. The Green Team has bigger goals in its sights moving forward, including reducing Knox’s food waste and greenhouse gas emissions.