Schools for Climate Action Summit 2019 | Earth Day Network

By Kira Heeschen

Climate change is an issue of major concern to today’s youth, who have a vested interest in a safe, stable, and equitable future. As climate impacts including drought, wildfires, and intensified hurricanes wreak havoc on communities, children are some of the most vulnerable.

Earth Day Network was lucky enough to be invited to attend the Schools for Climate Action (S4CA) Summit on Capitol Hill. The event was hosted by Schools for Climate Action, a non-partisan, youth-adult, grassroots campaign to empower school communities to speak up for climate action, and Young Voices for the Planet. The event was organized and led by middle and high schoolers from around the country who have experienced the impacts of climate change in their own backyards.

Many student speakers from across the country took to the podium to discuss how the 2018 fires in California claimed their homes, and how Hurricane Harvey devastated their Texas community. These students have come together now to create partnerships with adults in their school communities who can stand with them as they demand climate action from their local and national leaders.

The event began with a panel of experts on environmental health and the mental health impacts of climate change. The expert panel presented the audience of students, educators, and congressional staff members with information about the disproportionate impact of climate change on youth’s physical and mental health. Other experts represented school boards and youth advocacy groups who empower youth to get engaged and become environmental leaders in their community.

Members of Congress were then invited in to answer hard-hitting questions prepared by the students on climate policy and the legislative process. A few 6th grade classes from Washington, DC, joined us in the room to hear these climate testimonies and learn from Congress members and the student speakers. After an inspiring morning hearing from teenagers who are taking charge of their futures, the S4CA students set off to Congressional offices to hand-deliver every single representative a resolution on climate action.

One call to action that was particularly interesting came from Devin Del Palacio of the National Black Council of School Board Members. Devin reminded us all that School Boards are elected to serve parents and students, and that they are the perfect place to start to demand climate-conscious decision-making in local communities. Since its formation a little more than a year ago, S4CA has managed to pass 64 resolutions in 11 different states. Devin informed the crowd that there are over 75,000 education-oriented organizations and over 90,000 school boards in the United States, with enormous potential impact in communities across the country! To learn more about how to engage your Student Council, School Board, and PTA and get a resolution passed near you, check out Schools for Climate Action Resources.