As local youth unwind from a busy school year, Houston, Texas‘ first-ever Youth Climate Ambassadors are hard at work finding creative ways to implement the Houston Climate Action Plan in order to make their neighborhoods more climate resilient. And, the city is helping them do it in a way to boosts youth employment, thus help to make the city more economically resilient.
In conjunction with the city’s Office of Sustainability, EcoRise and the city’s Hire Houston Youth program, the Youth Climate Ambassador program was created to train young Houstonians to be climate leaders in their communities – raising awareness about the impacts of climate change and gathering feedback from historically underserved communities on climate challenges and environmental justice issues.
The program will allow young people to gain work experience, environmental training, and earn a paycheck to invest in their education.
The Office of Sustainability (OoS) oversees and tracks the implementation of Houston’s Climate Action Plan (CAP)—a science-based, community-driven strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—meet the Paris Agreement goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, and lead a global energy transition. The CAP builds upon Resilient Houston, the City’s resilience strategy which identified climate change as a key threat to the city’s future.
“Young people are some of the best ambassadors on climate because they are inquisitive and care deeply about our planet,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. “Our Youth Climate Ambassadors will serve as a critical link between the City and underrepresented and vulnerable communities and help us collaborate on innovative and inclusive climate action.”
The Youth Climate Ambassadors will undergo extensive training through EcoRise before collaborating with community organizations to engage communities of color, low and moderate-income households, immigrants and refugees, youth, and those with limited English proficiency on the CAP. Increasing youth participation to address climate change is crucial as the risks associated with urban heat, rain, drought, and extreme weather events continue to intensify over time.
EcoRise is a school-based non-profit that develops the next generation of green leaders by enlivening conventional classrooms with academically aligned K–12 curricula that introduce students to environmental literacy, social innovation, and hands-on design skills.
“Youth perspective is imperative to engage communities in the Houston Climate Action plan,” said Kristi Hibler-Luton, Program Director of EcoRise. “EcoRise is excited to expand our youth engagement program in Houston to give these bright, young adults the tools they need to become leaders in the civic process and enact change and climate resilience in their communities.”
Through EcoRise programming, the Youth Climate Ambassadors will grow their knowledge and understanding of the Houston Climate Action Plan, city resources, and community organizations that help support the work of the City of Houston. Ambassadors will be given the tools to examine equity and community climate issues through a data lens and enhance communication, surveying and evaluation, and community outreach while developing their voice and passion for this important work.
“I am incredibly excited to be working with the Office of Sustainability within the City of Houston,” said Evelina Torres. “Growing up, I have always had an interest in the environment, but with the increase of climate disasters and the growing threat of climate change within my community, I am passionate to be a part of the solution.”
“It has been so invigorating to inform underserved communities about climate change and the Houston Climate Action Plan,” said Devin Guevara. “Every time we pass out a flyer, give a presentation, or recite our elevator speeches, we provide communities the tools to take steps towards a more sustainable and equitable Houston.”
EcoRise is currently supporting more than 5000 teachers in helping over 275,000 students solve real-world sustainability challenges concerning energy, water, waste, transportation, air quality, food, and public spaces. Their programs focus on enhancing STEM education and 21st-century skills, promoting sustainability and civic engagement, and introducing students to green careers and environmental justice.
Photo of Climate Ambassadors courtesy of Ecorise.