Climate Youth Ambassador Program - a network of high school environmentalists to raise awareness about the climate crisis

A youth-led initiative to raise awareness about climate change and foster environmentalism with interactive, engaging activities

Photo of Kaushik Tota
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Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Website: climateyouthambassadors.org; Instagram: @climateyouthambassadors

Date You Started Your Project Started

11/1/2018

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Many individuals do not fully understand the science behind climate change; consequently, they do not understand their actions’ environmental impact. There is also a lack of climate education for children, who are Earth’s next generation. Without a robust child-centered climate awareness program, the future population of Earth will not understand the importance of combating the climate crisis, leaving our planet vulnerable to climate change.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

The Climate Youth Ambassador Program (CYAP) conducts youth-focused programs explaining the causes and effects of climate change, and teaches individuals strategies that they can employ to reduce their carbon footprint and resource consumption. We believe that a comprehensive understanding of the science behind climate change and global warming, its effects on the planet, and resources to lead an environmentally-conscious lifestyle, are the key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and garnering support for environmentally-progressive practices. Our presentations aim to educate attendees with both general and personalized emissions-reductions strategies ranging from unplugging unused chargers to replacing insulation material in walls. We also go to community events where we set up tables with a variety of activities that passerbys may participate in to engage in conversations about the environment. We give away various environmentally-friendly prizes such as metal straws, biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes, and pens made of recycled materials at all our events to provide attendees with resources that they can immediately use to start making a positive impact on the environment.

3. Using STEM as a force of good: Please specify how are you using STEM to solve for an environmental challenge you are passionate about.

A critical component of CYAP presentational content is the science of climate change. However, beyond the basic components such as the greenhouse effect, our presentations go into more detail about phenomena arising from anthropogenic climate change, including deforestation, ocean acidification, and sea level rise. We believe that a thorough understanding of the science behind climate change is crucial to effective climate education. Once someone understands the science behind climate change, it is possible to more effectively appeal to them to take action against it. We also create content that is tailored to specific audiences. For example, for youth, CYAP’s target audience, we create different presentations for different age groups and train Climate Youth Ambassadors to connect scientific content to anecdotes that children are familiar with. For example, we discuss ocean acidification and the loss of marine diversity by relating the topic to Finding Dory, a movie that many children are familiar with. We also include interactive Q&A sessions and models for children to experiment with in order to increase their familiarity with the scientific background of climate change.

4. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

When I was 11 years old, I watched a TED Talk by Al Gore and became fascinated by the climate crisis. I explored the extensive literature surrounding climate change and global warming, reading parts of Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and various reports soon after the TED Talk. As I looked into the issue more, I was astonished by the ignorance of certain politicians and oil-backed groups towards climate change. Scientists had time and again proven that climate change is real, human-caused, and occuring at an accelerating rate, yet illogical argumentation and ignorance prevailed. My interest in climate change slowly turned into passion: I wanted to counter the misinformation and deflection utilized by the most powerful influences in the world to downplay its significance. I had also recently discovered my love for teaching children, and gravitated towards the idea of community education.

5. Video (Keep it simple, a video made on a hand-held phone is great): Please upload a 1-minute video to YouTube that answers the following “I am stepping up to be a Changemaker because...”

This video covers the origins of CYAP, our community service, and our current journey as environmentalists, as well as why being Changemakers would heighten our ability to affect positive change through climate awareness.

6. Please highlight the key activities you have carried out to bring your project to life.

I worked with Bay Area high schools to recruit like-minded students as Climate Youth Ambassadors, forming a team of passionate teens in February 2019. Since our initial event in April 2019, we have completed 19 events at schools, libraries, and community gatherings, with an estimated reach of over 3000 people. We have conducted climate change and climate action presentations, as well as interactive activity tables at county fairs to engage passerbys in discussions about the environment.

7. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Various organizations advocate for environmentally-progressive policies, but there are no organizations that focus solely on climate awareness, with an emphasis on children. Another unique element of CYAP is that our team goes directly to children, as opposed to solely organizing our own events. We work with schools to conduct assemblies during the school day itself, thereby interacting with hundreds of kids at a time. We also conduct presentations during busy library hours. Through our unique program structure, we are able to capture larger audiences than other climate education initiatives.

8. Impact: In the last three months, please detail the impact your project has made?

Climate Youth Ambassadors have completed 19 presentations and community engagement activities since inception. We have gone to venues and schools across the Bay Area, reaching over 3000 youth and adults with our message of environmentalism. Over the past 3 months, despite unique circumstances, we successfully pivoted to an online medium, conducting 6 events with an estimated reach of 1050 people. Beyond the quantitative impacts of CYAP, a truly magical effect of our program is our ability to get kids excited about tackling climate change. Children tell us that our presentations convinced them to start conversations with their parents about reducing the carbon footprint of their household. Once, we revisited a school where we conducted an assembly a few months prior, and were greeted by excited students who said they use the metal straws and bamboo toothbrushes we gave them every day.

9. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Although I am very proud of CYAP’s effect on our community thus far, our work is far from over. We have yet to conduct assemblies at many schools, and there are many events we hope to present at. We will build connections with cities, event organizers, and school districts to coordinate presentations and activities with their respective populations. I also envision CYAP expanding across the state and country. High schoolers with an inclination toward community service and environmentalism can start CYAP chapters in their own regions and work with local agencies and schools to form teams who can conduct outreach like what we have performed in the Bay Area. Chapters can then collaborate to develop more personalized and informative content.

10. Please share how you have influenced other young people to get involved in your project and/or care about environmental sustainability.

The CYAP team consists of 18 passionate teen environmentalists from 11 Bay Area schools. High school students that are interested in making an impact through community education have come to CYAP over the last year to learn more about climate change, gain the tools and training to make an impact, and engage in meaningful community service. Beyond educating the public, CYAP has produced Climate Youth Ambassadors who will continue to be environmental stewards for the rest of their lives.

11. Please share ideas of how you can partner with other changemakers to make a difference?

Thus far, the presentations, content, and activities we chose to include in CYAP content reflects the knowledge of our team. However, Changemakers from across the country will bring with them different experiences. Collaborating with other Changemakers to integrate their insights into our organization’s approach to climate education could generate innovative and creative programs that are more effective at generating awareness and motivating the public to take action against climate change.

12. How would you engage others who have never heard about your project to get their buy-in?

Studies by governmental agencies and research institutions confirm that public climate awareness is the key to sustainable community development and leads to significant greenhouse gas emissions reductions. I would encourage a skeptic to attend one of our presentations with an open mind. Our unique approach to climate education effectively raises community awareness and provides time for personalized discussion, and would help convince them of the importance of environmental consciousness.

13. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Search engine

Evaluation results

6 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 16.7%

Probably - 16.7%

Maybe - 50%

Probably not - 16.7%

No - 0%

2. CONNECTION to Environmental Sustainability

5 - Absolutely! It is totally clear that the solution is contributing directly to environmental sustainability and/or addressing climate change - 66.7%

4 — Yes, it establishes a connection to environment/ climate change but could be stronger - 33.3%

3 — Somewhat, the entry speaks to this environmental sustainability, but the direct impact is not well established - 0%

2 — Not really, the connection to environment/ climate is very weak - 0%

1 — No. The entry does not have a reference the solution’s impact on environment and/or climate change - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%

3. Is this entry CREATIVE?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 0%

4 - Yes, I think so - 16.7%

3 - Maybe - 50%

2 - Probably not. - 33.3%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Does this entry demonstrate a COMMITMENT to changemaking?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 100%

4 - Yes, I think so - 100%

3 - Maybe - 33.3%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Does this entry value CHANGEMAKING through collaboration with other stakeholders in its approach?

5 - Yes, absolutely! - 16.7%

4 - Yes, I think so - 33.3%

3 - Maybe - 50%

2 - Probably not - 0%

1 - No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

6. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

5 -Yes, absolutely! - 50%

4- Yes, I think so - 25%

3- Maybe - 25%

2- Probably not - 0%

1- No - 0%

No Answer - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: What are the strengths of this project?

CONNECTION: You have a great understanding and personal connection to the problem - 100%

CREATIVITY: You have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions to aid environmental sustainability/combat climate change - 25%

COMMITMENT: You have a thoughtful plan for growing your business, and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 75%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: You value thinking around how to activate other changemakers and empower them to care about your cause. You also have a clearly defined plan on how to collaborate across multiple stakeholders - 25%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 25%

VIABLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 25%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK: What are some areas for improvement for this project?

CONNECTION: Why you care about the environment/ climate was unclear – It would be great to elaborate on what this solution means to you, personally and how it affects you and/or your community. - 0%

CREATIVITY: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 100%

COMMITMENT: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 0%

CHANGEMAKER QUALITY: Try to provide more insights into how you are activating changemakers and empowering them to innovate through your product or programming. How will they care about environment/climate if they currently do not? Think about how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 33.3%

IMPACT MEASUREMENT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 33.3%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 33.3%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 0%

Other option - 33.3%

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