© Seattle Youth Climate Action Network. Proudly created by SYCAN Youth Leadership Team

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  • Arvin Thyagarajan

SYCAN In 2018

2018 is a year of transformations for the Seattle Youth Climate Action Network (SYCAN). With our new grant Catalyzing Communities from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), we have more capacity and resources to support youth leadership and to strengthen the network of community partners on our steering committee.

SYCAN kicked off 2018 by holding listening conversations with community partners on our steering committee, teens who have participated in SYCAN before, and those who haven’t. The goal of those conversations was to build relationships, get feedback on SYCAN’s previous activities, and to brainstorm ways to make our work better. Two themes that emerged both in conversations with community partners and with teens were to center equity and inclusion in our work and to authentically center youth leadership.

Though we are still in the process of learning and shifting based on community and youth feedback, some of the outcomes of the listening conversations are: a new model for the Youth Leadership Team, a framework for adult allyship, and continuing on our journey to build equity and inclusion into every aspect of SYCAN. Some of the changes to the YLT include a monthly stipend of $50/month, a cohort of teens that applied to be on the YLT, a portion of the budget that the YLT has control over, and an opportunity for the YLT to decide what projects and opportunities SYCAN should offer for other teens in the community. The role of the adult steering committee is to support youth leadership through mentorship, expertise, and resources and to consistently challenge adultism in SYCAN spaces.

We are also on the journey of building equity and inclusion into every aspect of our work. We look to the climate and environmental justice movement, which asserts that the people who are the most directly impacted by climate change and environmental health hazards have contributed to them the least, and their experiences and leadership need to be at the forefront of identifying solutions to the climate crisis. As we rebuild SYCAN with the support of several historically white institutions as well as community-led organizations on our steering committee of adults, it is important for us to uplift the narratives of the climate and environmental justice movement, build an inclusive and welcoming culture in all SYCAN spaces, invite teens from communities most impacted by these issues to the table and support their leadership, and commit to consistently learning, unlearning, and changing based on equity.

As we are learning and changing, we are pushing forward. To recruit teens for the YLT, we did extensive and intentional outreach, which included visiting classrooms, school lunches, and youth groups in schools; tabling at a number of community events and youth resource fairs; and sending hundreds of emails far and wide. To give people the opportunity to check out SYCAN before they applied to be on the YLT, we worked with a few teens to plan an event called Young Voices of Climate Change. The event was at Amplifier Art Lab with the theme of art and climate action, with the beautiful backdrop of the My Climate Hero campaign. We invited teens to drop-in during the afternoon on Sunday, April 16th to participate in art activities, learn more about how to get involved in youth-led action on climate change, and connect with their peers. A poet from Youth Speaks shared powerful poetry with the group, and teen leaders from the past Youth Leadership Committee and Zero Hour spoke about their experiences working to address climate change. The youth also had an impromptu conversation about climate action and what it looks like in their lives.

Finally, we invited 16 teens onto the Youth Leadership Team in May. And friends, they’re pretty awesome. Coming from all over King County, they have different backgrounds, passions, strengths, and ideas for climate action. The teens on the YLT will introduce themselves soon, so be on the lookout.

The Youth Leadership Team is just now taking off, and adult allies are on deck to support them in developing community action projects, planning events, and whatever else they decide to do. Though I have immensely enjoyed my time working all of the folks involved in SYCAN, I am stepping away from my role at Woodland Park Zoo. If you’re interested in supporting the amazing work of SYCAN, check out the job description. Be on the lookout for more news and updates about events, activities, campaigns, etc, on the horizon! If you haven’t already, sign up for our mailing list and/or follow us on Instagram @seattleyouthcan.