By Shelli-Kae Foster
As YES! Program Director I was honored to be invited to participate in the kickoff event for the UofM’s Climate Justice Lecture Series on April 28. The focus of the event was “Youth Action: Health & Climate Change.” I was joined by Aaron Rosenblum, 3rd year UMN Medical School and Climate Smart Health Care Co-Chair and Akilah Sanders-Reed, Oil Free Organizer, Power Shift Network.
The UofM CHAP (Climate Health Action Program) started this unique series to build community, raise awareness about the intersection between climate change and social determinants of health, highlight those community groups leading the way in climate efforts, and to showcase actions those in academia can take to bridge the gap.
I was excited to share stories that highlighted the impact the YES! program can have on youth, their health and the health of our environment. I shared the story of a high school boy who came to school after being non-verbal in the school setting for 2 years. After joining YES! this young man became very passionate about helping the environment and soon he was leading the YES! meetings and even was featured in a video promoting the new composting system for the school’s lunch waste! I also lifted up recent accomplishments by students to reduce energy by switching out florescent lights to LED, designing and building solar boats, building a solar suitcase which will soon be deployed to Uganda, planting pollinator gardens, paddling local water ways to test for aquatic invasive species and more.
After the 3 of us gave our presentations, a lively panel discussion led by Dr. Michael Kim followed. I want to thank the UofM Medical School for this opportunity to share the wonderful accomplishments of our coaches and students.
A recording of the event is available via the medical school’s YouTube page here.
YES! empowers youth to create solutions to today’s ecological challenges through community based hands-on action projects. YES! is a program of Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in partnership with Ney Nature Center. Major funding is provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust (ENRTF), LYFT Career Pathways and CERTs.