When Amanda Bruha ’20, a double major in environmental studies and geoscience, was in high school, she helped plan a climate change summit, and the experience proved pivotal for her. “Climate change is such an important issue,” she says. “It’s an issue that can no longer be ignored.”
On Oct. 25, Bruha had the chance to address the topic again during the Finger Lakes Youth Climate Summit, a day-long gathering of high schoolers that she helped organize with the HWS Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) Education Program as the FLI Youth Climate Summit Intern.
More than 100 teens attended the event, which featured sessions on topics such as sustainability and solutions for climate change, invasive species and youth leadership. Ríobart É. Breen, of the Anam Earth Center for Sustainability and Culture, a non-profit youth and environmental organization, gave a keynote address. President Gregory J. Vincent ’83 also gave an address during the summit.
“Attendees should take away a message that climate change is happening already, and, though daunting, is an issue that we can address together,” says Nadia Harvieux, education program manager at the FLI, who worked with Bruha.
The central activity of the summit was to create climate action plans (CAP) in teams. CAPs are roadmaps created by students to help them plan and initiate environmental projects. These step-by-step guides encourage the teens to set realistic goals and create a timeline for implementation.
“Climate action plans can range from starting an environmental club in school to researching a proposal for solar panels,” says Bruha. “The CAPs are designed to help the students think through their projects so they can create realistic change.”
Bruha’s passion for climate change education has been a driving force in planning the summit, according to Harvieux. Bruha encouraged HWS student leaders to be a part of the event, bringing the EcoReps and the winners of the HWS Hackathon entrepreneurial competition, in to the day’s programming as mentors and leaders for the high school students. Along with helping students create their CAPs, the EcoReps held a meet and greet where they shared information about initiatives taking place on the Hobart and William Smith campus. In the coming year, HWS student leaders will reconnect with high school students who attended the conference in order to provide feedback and support as they carry out their sustainability projects.
“Amanda is already a leader in the field of environmental sustainability, education and outreach and community activism,” Harvieux says. “Her inspiration and initiative to start a youth climate summit here in the Finger Lakes is going to have a positive impact on hundreds of high school students for years to come.”
The summit has been made possible by funding from the Siemens Foundation, which invests in workforce development and education initiatives in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).