By Giavanni Nickson
The City of Gary hosted its second Youth Environmental Summit at the Genesis Convention Center January 3, 2019. The event brought together middle and high school students from Gary, Portage, Merrillville, Hammond, Chesterton, and Michigan City to learn about the necessity and benefits of preserving environmental quality.
Local public, private, and non-profit organizations showcased their work to increase sustainability in the region through workshops presented on environmental protection, public health, and community organizing.
Students had the opportunity to engage on topics ranging from civic engagement, clean air, and ecosystem dynamics to local farming, sustainable transportation, and waste reduction.
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, environmental careers are growing and anticipated to continue at a growth rate 11% higher than average until 2026. The knowledge imparted at the summit will help students prepare for environmental careers with a focus on natural science and other science-related fields.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said, “It is important that we impart the knowledge that will empower youth to guide our local and global community in a more sustainable direction.”
The summit helped strengthen the relationships between the city and organizations excited to support Gary in engaging its youth around sustainability.
The Gary Youth Services Bureau organized the summit along with the Department of Environmental Affairs & Green Urbanism, and Earth Charter Indiana.
The vision of the Youth Service Bureau is to equip youth with tools to maximize their life’s potential, empower them to lead, and give them a platform to make an impact in the world.
The summit was in line with the mission of the Gary Department of Environment Affairs & Green Urbanism, helping students learn ways to improve the health of the environment through the utilization of environmental services and program activities to help make Gary a more valuable asset overall.
During the summit Gary youth connected with their peers from neighboring cities and the region to engage in youth-driven action in response to climate change.
Members of Youth Power Indiana and Earth Charter Indiana were present and shared stories of young leaders around the globe who are advocating for more urgent government action against climate change.
The city of Gary also supports students with participation in Earth Charter’s Climate Leadership Summit, a statewide conference specially designed for mayors, city leaders, and community partners to discuss how to prepare for the changing climate. The summit focuses on mitigation and adaptation through green jobs, renewable energy, public health, sustainable food, water conservation, communication, and youth engagement.
As Gary strives to pursue a safe, healthy and well-protected environment fostered through civic engagement, economic sustainability will increase. The increased health of the local environment enhances the overall quality of life for residents. In turn, this makes the city more attractive to potential residents and business.
“This summit engaged our youth in the conversation around climate change, one of the most significant conversations of our time, and connected what’s at stake for humanity in how it relates to their everyday lives,” said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.
In the state of Indiana, there are multiple youth-led campaigns to pass climate recovery resolutions.
Through the summit, NWI students learned strategies they can use to organize for climate or any other type of change. The summit showed students what personal behaviors they could adapt to be more sustainable and encouraged them to become involved in their communities to advocate for change that will be impactful for the future.
Support of the environment and youth are both a crucial part of the city’s revitalization and sustainability planning.
The Youth Environmental Summit was part of the Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) initiative led by Youth Services Bureau. CCCN is an initiative sponsored by the National League of Cities to support cities in strengthening the policies, programs, and partnerships available to connect children to nature.
For more information on the Youth Environmental Summit or CCCN, contact Gary Youth Services Bureau at (219) 881-5270 or Gary Department of Environmental Affairs & Green Urbanism at (219) 882-3000.