One of the most powerful moments for any educator occurs when cultivating a student’s passion and potential into purpose. A program that welcomes the region’s high school students to Trent is stoking the flames of sustainably-minded youth allowing them to forge futures as environmental leaders.
Youth Leadership in Sustainability offers grade 11 and 12 students from across the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board an innovative backdrop to explore their potential as leaders while rising to the challenges of creating a greener future locally and globally. Through the program, students are taken out of the traditional classroom for a semester and immersed in learning experiences that take them into natural areas, including those around Trent’s Symons Campus.
While exploring their calling as future environmental leaders, the class was fortunate to have a very special guest provide some advice via video conference: iconic Canadian environmental activist and scientist, David Suzuki. While students were able to have questions answered by Mr. Suzuki, he also took the moment to acknowledge the role of youth in the current environmental movement.
“Youth like you are absolutely critical now,” explained Mr. Suzuki. “You don’t have an investment in the status quo, and what is at risk now is your entire future.”
The entire experience has been transformational for students, including Malaika Collette who notes, “Through interactive activities, hands on field trips and engaging speakers, I have [explored] politics, the climate crisis, sustainable food systems as well as many other sustainable ways of living and environmental concerns. [I have] been able to learn and expand on what I’m passionate about, and more importantly been given the skills to advocate for the change I want to see.”
While the program serves as a great opportunity for high school students to see what the university experience at Trent has to offer, it also is offering great hands-on learning for teacher candidates. Megan Black, Trent University teacher candidate explains, “[the experience] has inspired me to search out opportunities beyond the typical classroom and just being an educator in general.”
The program’s founder and director, Cameron Douglas, developed this program as a way for students to make links between their own lives and global challenges, and to encourage students to see themselves as agents of positive change. This program is connected to Trent’s School of the Environment, as well as the School of Education, with leaders like Dr. Cathy Bruce and Dr. Stephen Hill lending their expertise and resources to support a unique way of empowering tomorrow’s environmental leaders.