On November 9, one hundred high school students from across Cape Cod gathered in Harwich for a Youth Climate Action Summit. This was a student-run summit, with the goal of creating opportunity for young people to learn about, interact, network and take action on climate change. Three Sandwich High students (Zoe Pace, Kallie Poon and Nico Gentile) were the principal organizers of this summit.
The idea for this summit was initiated by Mass Audubon in December 2018. They contacted Amy Ferreira, STEM science teacher, to inquire about Sandwich’s involvement in this initiative. That is when Zoe, Kallie and Nico got involved. The three students started meeting after school and on weekends with Mass Audubon staff, as well as a few other teachers and students from across the Cape to plan and organize this event. They did an outstanding job.
They were responsible for coordinating the day’s events, contacting local restaurants and organizations for food donations, getting in touch with guest speakers, coordinating the logistics of hosting one hundred students in two different locations, and leading activities and presentations. The hope is to make this the “First Annual” — to continue to run the summit each year to encourage and empower young people to get involved in climate change decisions and actions in their community.
During the “First Annual” Cape & Islands Climate Action Youth Summit many schools were represented. These schools included our own Sandwich High, as well as Cape Cod Academy, Monomoy Regional High, Martha’s Vineyard High, Barnstable High, Sturgis West & East,, and DY Regional High. The students who represented Sandwich (in addition to Kallie, Zoe, and Nico) were Haley Rice, Georgia Haines, Trinity Poon, Parker Hunt, Paige Morris, Sam LeBlanc, Hayden West-Mather, Paula Tangulig and Aneka Pigott.
The day began at Harwich Junior Theater where Alexandra Vecchio, Mass Audubon’s Climate Change Program Coordinator, spoke to students about climate change. Her presentation was engaging, informative and inspiring. She spoke about the importance of taking action, but also the perseverance students should have in doing so. She talked about how making change is often difficult, but motivated them by addressing how critically important making these changes are for the future of our Earth.
Afterwards, students watched an abbreviated performance of “Crude” the musical. In this musical, “Environmentalist Cassidy is elated her oil-tycoon father finally sees the light about the endangered planet, and is expanding into solar and wind energy. She’s ready to start a public-relations blitz about going green.” (quote taken from Cape Cod Times, Oct. 14, 2019) Afterwards, students had an opportunity to talk to the playwright and actors about the musical, their experiences and climate change.
Students were also visited by both Julian Cyr, Massachusetts State Senator, and William Keating, US Congressman. Both men thanked the students for their commitment to and willingness to take action to curb climate change in their schools and communities.
The second half of the day was spent at Cape Cod Theater Arts Center in West Harwich, where students attended chosen break out sessions focusing on Cape Energy Consumption and Conservation (led by Cape Light Compact and E2 Solar), Eating for the Planet and Your Health (led by two local doctors, Dr. Kumara Sidhartha and Dr. Jane B. Ward), Political Activism for the Future (led by SunRise and Election 2020), and Careers in Climate Change (led by Cape Cod STEM Network and WEEInfo, Inc.).
The breakout sessions were followed up by students choosing an action they’d like to take at their school, focusing on water, conservation, political advocacy, social justice, renewable energy, education, development planning and mitigation, and waste. Students from different schools engaged in dialogue and developed an action plan to initiate at their schools. The goal was to get as many schools involved in addressing the issue of climate change in their schools and community in many different ways. The hope is to start these action plans this year, then come back together next year to reassess, improve, and continue these action plans. Students left educated, inspired and motivated to start making positive changes locally and globally.
Lastly, I wanted to give kudos to the local businesses who donated food for breakfast, lunch, and a vegan ice cream social: Panera Bread, Rory’s Market & Kitchen, and Ben & Jerry’s.
- Amy Ferreira
- Grade 8 Science
- STEM Academy