We didn't think anyone would come. It was two weeks prior to the event, and our registration list only had 16 names, with 11 of them from the host school and one of them the writer of this post. Three months of work only to have four people sign up — you could say we were a little discouraged. Still, we wrote some more emails, made some more calls, not expecting much. The next week ten people signed up, but by then we had come to terms with a vision of a slightly smaller event.
Then, through some fortuitous twist of fate, 39 people registered in the final week.
Don't ask me how, because I'm still baffled. All I know is that when I walked in to give the opening remarks, there were over 60 students and teachers, representing 17 schools from across the county, looking back at me.
The event to which I'm referring is the Student Sustainability Summit
, a collaboration of my school (Ursuline) and Hackley School, with the support of Dobbs Ferry, Scarsdale and Rye Country Day. Completely student initiated and run, the summit sprang from an activism event for Copenhagen our Environmental Club hosted in November. The student leader at Hackley, Katie Fein, and I hit it off, and the rest — as they say — is sustainability.
Located in the Hackley's beatiful upper school cafeteria, the summit lasted from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 6. We began with a great keynote presentation from Nicola Coddington, the executive director of New York Interfaith Power and Light
and a Climate Project presenter
. Following lunch, our second session featured six discussion tables focused on various subjects from renewable energy to campus activism, and we were lucky to have Katie Ginsberg from CELF and Lily Twining of Yale College to lead two table discussions.
The climax of the day, however, came in the final session: brainstorming. Our goals were to form the first youth environmental network for our area and to plan concrete, collective activism for the coming months. Armed with six questions to focus our thoughts, we broke into small groups, each composed of students from different schools. Twenty minutes later, Katie took to her computer and I to the microphone, as each group presented their ideas, which were then promptly recorded and projected for all to see.
With numerous details to work out and limited time, we were only able to come to a consensus as a whole on a few points, but they were among the most important. We agreed to form a network to unite student environmentalists across Westchester (although it quickly became apparent finding acronyms to call such a network was not our strength). The goals of the network were decided to be two-fold: to help students with projects in their individual schools through sharing of resources and experiences, and to utilize the strength of our numbers to pursue large activism campaigns.
We set our next meeting date for the network in early April. The task? To strategize and implement a meaningful activism campaign during Earth Week, using the next month to individually brainstorm ideas. Possibilities proposed include a large tree planting event, a large march or calling campaign. Oh yeah, we're also going to decide a name — though strong in numbers, we weren't as strong in acronyms.
Having accomplished our goals, we ended the day as any successful event should: with a large, grinning group picture — exactly how we originally imagined it.
Students at the discussion tables during the Summit.
Nicola giving her presentation.
Photos: Maddy Yozwiak