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Environmental Quality Board Joining with Youth to Change the Environment

The state of the environment is changing and youth want their voices heard. The Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) is hoping to partner up with youth every year to address their environmental concerns and find the solutions that work best.

A mini-grant provided by the Institute on the Environment is supporting a partnership of the EQB with one student intern from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus and one student intern from the University of Minnesota Morris campus. The partnership will help bring a youth voice to the board’s statewide programming while the student interns take on leadership roles in planning meetings with the EQB.

The EQB’s last board meeting on Oct. 18 featured leadership from the Youth Environmental Leaders, a group of volunteers chosen by the EQB to bring youth perspectives into conversations surrounding climate change in government.

This board meeting was purposefully organized to include primarily youth voices, with groups like iMatter and the Climate Interveners, who were given the opportunity to express their worries and hopes to a council of board members. Youth from around the state attended the board meeting in Roseville, including a group from Morris.

“It was [a] really amazing to see all of the connections everyone brought in to make the meeting happen,” said Lexie Dietz, a high school student and member of YEL. “Whether it was through bringing in speakers or audience members, every person was essential to community outreach.”

The entire process began this past May when YEL was assembled by Katie Pratt, Director of Communications and Public Engagement for the EQB, and Giuseppe Tumminello, an EQB project coordinator. Through video chats, conference phone calls and very few in-person meetings, YEL had fully organized one of the EQB’s monthly board meetings.

“It was an awesome experience to get to work with so many cool people of different ages, backgrounds, and experiences to put together this meeting,” said Rachel Lindholm, YEL and Green Corps member, as well as a recent U of M alum. “We all brought something different to the table and we were able to create a really great event with different engaging parts to it.

After two hours of presentations, the board members unanimously approved YEL’s resolution, to “engage youth environmental leaders and reserve one annual board meeting dedicated to youth perspectives, work, and ideas.”

“I felt very hopeful when the resolution was approved because I now know that once a year, passionate local youth environmentalists can share their experiences with the board in order to remind them of the importance of environmental issues,” said Dietz.

“In the future, I hope this helps more youth to become involved in local government as they will have a platform to connect with officials.”

The members of YEL felt proud and excited about the board’s decision.  

“It was surreal to hear the board members voting on our resolution, something that we had put so much time and energy into,” Lindholm said. “Even though we were told that it would pass, it was still amazing to hear the invidious board members speak in its favor and congratulate us before and afterward.”

YEL and the EQB alike realized the impact that youth can truly have on issues such as climate change and the environment, whether this is at the local level or national.

“I learned that the ‘youth’ truly are the future,” said Annie Pottorff, communications coordinator at the Jefferson Center, a member of YEL and a recent U of M alum.

“At my high school, we didn’t have an environmental club, and students didn’t go to protests or rallies as a way to advocate for what they believed in. But working with this diverse group and seeing the young people throughout the state of Minnesota that are committed to a better future was incredible.”

Plans for ways to get involved are still under works, but if you’re interested in the EQB’s work and want to learn more, they host monthly board meetings that are free and open to the public. Check their website to stay up to date on opportunities for youth in the near future.

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