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Youth4Climate’s Rise Up Rooted Summit 

By Taarika Sethee and Allison Lee, SD350 youth climate leaders

Group photos of all the students holding signs at the summit

Youth4Climate’s 2024 Summit, themed Rise Up Rooted, was an unforgettable gathering of passionate young minds and hearts. Over 50 activists, 37 of them youth, came together at KIPP Adelante Prep Academy to learn about and drive forward climate action. Fourteen different schools were represented, ranging from two middle schools, nine high schools, and three colleges. From seventh graders to graduate students, alongside committed adult allies, the summit was a beautiful and diverse medley of ideas and inspiration. 

Youth speakers

Upon arrival, participants dove into an art build, excitedly decorating individual paper leaves with recycled magazines and answering the questions: What future do I hope to create & build as an activist? How do I create change in my community? Why is climate & social justice important to me? They attached each of their unique leaves to a bare tree cutout, transforming it into a vibrant symbol of our collective commitment to the planet and reminding us of the strength we gain from our roots as well as the growth we achieve together. 

Our inspiring speakers—Daniel Hernandez, Izzy Vaiasuso, Alexis Hernandez-Sumulat, Anna Wang, and Holly Harwood— ignited the spark of change within us. Daniel reminded us of the power of our voice, beseeching youth to use their voices in the fight for our climate and giving us hope that we have the ability to drive change. Izzy, Alexis, and Anna, with their creation of a community garden and deep-dive presentation breaking down the project, targeted the importance of collective organization and raising youth as young as second grade to practice sustainability in a collaborative effort by caring for and raising various plants. Holly let us truly connect with our emotions and provided meaningful insight on the ways one can pursue activism through college as well as offering numerous tips and valuable resources for activists. Their powerful words were followed by engaging breakout discussions where activities like canvas painting with Daniel, a Q&A session with Holly, and rock painting with Izzy, Alexis, and Anna (which could be donated to the garden) were held, fostering further creativity and collaboration.

Youth students playing a game standing and smiling at eachother

Laughter echoed through the room during a lively climate-related improv session held by Jackie Bookstein with Mockingbird Improv where participants were divided into groups and assigned various tasks like standing in a circle trying to pass an arm-wave around as fast as possible, coming up with a climate-related story on the spot, or trying to solve climate-related issues using random words from pieces of paper. This activity was a highlight of the summit, allowing the participants to heighten their bond together through the silly yet engaging tasks.

Personally, this event inspired and amazed me. Seeing a small local youth activist group, initiating such significant changes in their community was truly energizing. Speaker Holly Harwood motivated me to be a lifelong activist and how to balance it with my academic life. Daniel Hernandez taught me the importance of utilizing my voice and voicing the concerns of my community to our government. Speakers Izzy, Alexis, and Anna revealed how we can educate young children about global warming in an approachable manner. Additionally, this event gave me hope for a world where we do not have to worry about climate change.

Youth students painting rocks and smiling

Lastly, participants explored informative and interactive tables for SanDiego350, Youth v. Oil, Youth4Climate, Rainbow Spaces, South Bay Sustainable Communities, South Bay Youth 4 Change, and Kumeyaay Community College. Many enthusiastic attendees signed up to join these groups, promising a hopeful future of expanded engagement and action.

A heartfelt thank you goes out to the Ocean Beach People’s Food Co-op for their delicious food donations and to Mariano Diaz, our talented photographer who captured the magic of the day. Overall, the Rise Up Rooted Summit was a huge success made possible by our dedicated planners and volunteers. We can’t wait to see you next year! Until then, let us rise up rooted and continue to grow our impact!