On Saturday, March 18, Residents Forward hosted its third Youth Climate Summit at the Port Washington Public Library. The event gives 100 students in grades eight through twelve the opportunity to hear from environmental leaders, participate in workshops, and plan their own Climate Action Projects.
Residents Forward is a non-profit organization based in Port Washington that supports projects that make the Port Washington area more sustainable, resilient and beautiful. In 2018, Residents Forward hosted the first-ever Youth Climate Summit on Long Island. The summit empowers students with the tools they need to think globally and act locally to address the climate emergency.
The keynote speakers at this year’s Youth Climate Summit were Nehal Bajaj, a High School Junior and Climate Justice Activist, and Mathew Pierre-Louis, an MIT student focusing on Mechanical Engineering.
Nehal spoke about her work with the Youth Climate Action Team (YCAT) and inspired students to think about how to use their voices and activities to be an advocate. Matthew focused on how attending the Youth Climate Summit has influenced his college experience, possible career path and more.
Residents Forward scheduled four workshops for the students at the summit to attend: a transportation workshop, a health workshop, a food and waste workshop, and a majors and careers workshop. Student attendees heard from the keynote speakers and participated in a question and answer segment, then were able to attend two out of the four workshops. Each workshop lasted for about an hour and featured a set of panelists that work in different fields to discuss a wide variety of expertise.
The transportation workshop featured Alex Esposito, CEO, Co-Founder of Circuit; Thandi Nyambose, NY Project and Partnership Manager of Circuit; Frank Wefering, Director of Sustainability of Greenman-Pedersen, Inc.; and Erika Richards, Director of Marketing and Communications at NICE. During the workshop, students focused on reducing Long Island’s dependency on gas-guzzling cars to move toward cleaner and greener forms of mobility. Discussions included efforts to make communities more walkable and bikeable.
Health workshop panelists featured Rebecca Weston, Co-President of Climate Psychology Alliance of North America; Kristen Vacco, NYS DOH Public Health Specialist Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology; and Ashley Guardado, Climate Justice Advocate. The panel discussion acknowledged eco-anxiety and explored how nature connectivity and exploration can help ease anxiety and address climate change.
The food and waste workshop included Anthony Marinello, Founder of DropSeed Native Landscape; Sonia Arora, Activist; and Nehal Bajaj, Climate Justice Advocate. The students learned about the food industry’s contributions to climate change through packaging, waste and transportation. Topics included reducing your carbon footprint by eating locally-grown food and being a conscious consumer.
The panelists for the majors and careers workshop included Andrew Fagerheim, Earth and Environmental Engineering at Columbia University; Caitlin Orellana, Director of Education at Science Museum of Long Island; Marjaneh Issapour MS, P.E., Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Tech and Director of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Center at Farmingdale State College; and Jeff Lichtenstein, Founder and CEO of Nect in Natural Boutique Private Equity Venture Studio. The workshop looked at college curriculum offerings, industry development and career opportunities in sustainability studies and climate action planning. Students had the opportunity to make connections with panelists.
After the workshops, the students attend a Climate Action Project Planning workshop.
Residents Forward Executive Director Patricia Class explained that “after [the students had] been to all the workshops, they could decide to work on a project that has to do with transportation and sit with that group to help come up with ideas.” Residents Forward is currently compiling information about the various Climate Action Projects students are working on after the summit.
Residents Forward extends a special thanks to the Youth Climate Summit 2023 sponsors: Community Chest of Port Washington & Tweezerman, The Angela & Scott Jaggar Foundation, Kim & Jeff Lichtenstein/Next in Natural, GPI, MomTime Events, Kim & John Keiserman, Building Conservation Associates/Beth Bailly, Amanda & Jason Leder, Jane Schwartz, Delia DiRiggi-Whitton, Eco-Leap, Inc., Sean McCarthy, Jim Neuwirth, Curt Trinko, Gilda Tesoriero, Dyan DuCharme, Peter Rosenberg, Peter Burrows, Jane Thomas, Chuck Idol, Brian Stoddard, and Joanne Clark-Schrynemakers.
—Information provided by Residents
Forward with additional reporting
by Julie Prisco