By Anne Dybsetter
On a breezy day in April 2007, a handful of people sat down at a hill-top picnic table overlooking the prairie and talked about an idea. The idea was to have a youth summit related to renewable energy—bringing together young people around a pressing issue in our region. In that early conversation, Cheryl Glaeser and Sarah Libbon of SWIF, Dave Pederson of PWELC, and I shared any number of “what ifs” about enhancing the role of youth in making our region more environmentally sustainable and economically vital through energy.
Five years later, many of the “what ifs. . .” that peppered our early conversations have—in truly inspiring fashion—come to pass. I’ve had the privilege of seeing the YES! program grow from a small outreach initiative into multiple cohorts with 27 teams and counting. I was thrilled to leave behind my role as the only YES! Coordinator in exchange for working among four YES! coordinators. And more: I’ve had the privilege to see hundreds of energized and motivated youth play an essential role in shifting the character of our region. Since 2007, YES! students have had a hand in changing norms regarding renewable energy, conservation and efficiency, waste reduction, and local foods. Without a doubt, this has been awesome work to witness.
This spring I completed my tenure as YES! coordinator. I am fortunate to have an opportunity to serve as Regional Program Manager for Minnesota Education Corps, and as such will continue to serve schools throughout southwest and west-central Minnesota. As I make this transition, the work of the YES! program will go with me. . . inspiring me to know that today’s good ideas—full of “what ifs”—hold real contributions for the future. Thanks to Dave, Cheryl, Shelli-Kae, Becca, and Aleta for being a marvelous team to work with, and good luck to all the YES! teams and coaches. I wish you all sustainable lives, resilient communities, and opportunities for good work!