SanDiego350’s Youth4Climate Summer Camp

By: Hannah Riggins, SD350 Youth Volunteer

SanDiego350 recently launched the Youth4Climate (Y4C) Summer Camp to introduce climate activism techniques while allowing campers to discover their people, power, and passion. Designed for high school and college-level students, Y4C was first conceived in May, during the initial COVID lockdown, and is currently halfway through its second session of the 2020 Summer. The planning team consists of a diverse group of adult and youth volunteers, with each separate committee spearheaded by at least one youth activist responsible for administering weekly meetings and delegating tasks to other committee members.

Y4C Structure:

The curriculum development team, led by Kate Vedder, develops the goals and weekly content, as well as the assigned projects, discussion questions, challenges, and journal prompts. Managed by Izzy Lee, the production team produces educational webinars and complementary promotional videos. Meanwhile, Adelka Hancova’s promotional team generates social media content and supplementary materials. Meisha Meyers and Alexa Castruita, youth volunteers, and Jennifer Phelps, an adult volunteer, organize the Sunday meetings as the leaders of the overall coordination and volunteer coordination team.

Y4C Camper Experience:

By the official start date for Session 1 (June 29, 2020), 39 individuals had registered. Each camper began the 4-week session with a welcome packet. The packets were designed with each detail thoughtfully considered, down to the 100% recyclable packaging. In each packet, campers discovered SD350’s custom DIY Handbook – “Fight like a climate activist”, as well as “sneak-peeks” of the week ahead, from positive energy tea to herbaceous plant clippings. Certain items in the welcome packet symbolized an aspect of how we as humans are connected to the Earth. Guided emotional resilience exercises, inspired by Joana Macy’s teachings, empowered campers to use their connections to each other and to the Earth to channel passion toward climate activism. The exercise included deep breathing and a focus on self-compassion.

Y4C Impact:

Youth are often susceptible to burnout, facing many stress-inducing pressures of contemporary life alongside the ordinary difficulties of coming of age. The primary goal of Y4C is to help youth climate activists find their place within the movement. For that reason, the content design team placed extra emphasis on emotional resilience. Another key goal of Y4C is to cultivate an environment in which campers can build a network of relationships. Y4C wants young climate activists to know that they are not alone—that their voice is heard—and intentionally connects them with peer activists.

Kate Vedder, a rising senior at Point Loma High School, stated that, “It is so amazing to be surrounded by passionate activists and to be in this community the camp has created. This camp is extremely empowering and has shown me how to be the best climate activist I can be!”

Alexa Castruita, a rising junior at Hilltop High School in Chula Vista, wrote that, “joining the planning group and actually being a part of the camp has opened up my eyes to so many perspectives on the world and has helped me develop more empathy for people. The camp is an amazing way to learn and advance in your education of important issues.”

Session 2 kicked off in early August and includes roughly 50 campers from 6 states. We will do what we can to continue the momentum in these unprecedented times, knowing that we are all in this together.

Explore Y4C: Website; Instagram; Youtube.

Members of the Month: A Youth Perspective

Members of the month: Megan Phelps, a fourth year UC Davis student and content volunteer; Claudia (Alexa) Castruita, a Hilltop High (Chula Vista) junior and Coordination Team member; and Isabelle (Izzy) Lee, a Baldwin School (Pennsylvania) senior leading the Production Team.

Interviews conducted and condensed by SD350 Volunteer Lorenzo Nericcio

This month, SD350 has selected three Youth Volunteers as the Members of the Month. Each helped coordinate and run the Youth4Climate (Y4C) summer camp—currently in its second session of the 2020 Summer—to help teens get more involved with the policy and outreach necessary to mitigate climate injustices in their communities.

Our three members of the month are: Megan Phelps, Claudia (Alexa) Castruita, and Isabelle (Izzy) Lee. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for clarity.

How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?

Megan: I got involved with SD350 when helping contribute to the Fight Like a Climate Activist Handbook that my mom (Jennifer Phelps) was writing last year. I then contributed to the Youth Summit this past spring. My heavy involvement really started with the Y4C Summer Camp!

Alexa: I first became involved with SD350 when I attended the Youth Climate Summit in my freshman year of high school in 2019. Recently, I became further involved when I joined the Youth Climate Leader weekly calls and eventually the Y4C Summer Camp Planning Team.

Izzy: I’ve been involved with SD350 for a couple of months now. During quarantine, I’ve been able to explore and pursue my interests more deeply. After learning more about climate change, I was determined to join a climate action organization, and I’m glad I found SD350!

What drives your activism?

Megan: My concern for the lives of people around the world and the biosphere that will be impacted by the destruction of climate change gives my activism purpose and meaning. I’m equally motivated by the people in the climate movement and the feeling that I can be creative in my activism!

Alexa: I’m driven by the feeling that, although as a Latina I represent a group who experience various disadvantages, I still have privilege and owe it to my community and all other BIPOC communities to use my own voice to amplifying those of others without a platform to speak for themselves.

Izzy: Coming from conservative background, I never really thought about activism. But, when I joined SD350, I realized that activism is a form of expression of passion about particular issues. My views have now changed, and I hope that others will join us in the fight for a more sustainable future!

What is your role within the Y4C Summer Camp, and how has this experience helped develop your leadership as a youth climate activist?

Megan: I have worked on the content team and have helped put on weekly live sessions, parties, and socials. Y4C has given me hope to see how strong, capable, and creative young people are. It’s a relief and an inspiration to see how the campers take the challenges and run with them!

Alexa: My role in the Y4C Summer Camp is as one of the co-leaders of the Overall Coordination team, which oversaw the work of the other teams in a way; it definitely taught me more about my capabilities as a leader, and pushed me to be more responsible and thoughtful of others.

Izzy: As a member of the planning team, I’ve been helping to prepare the Y4C Summer Camp for the past couple of months. I’m also the leader of the Production Team and a member of the Promotion Team. This has shown me how powerful and effective our voices can be in the climate movement.

What else would you like people to know about you?

Megan: I am so happy and feel so lucky to be alive during a time when I can enjoy so many beautiful things about the earth—the ocean (where I love to swim and bodysurf), great food (which I love to cook), birdsong, frog croaks, the smell of the SoCal sage, and my great family and wonderful friends (who support me in my activism and personal growth)!

Alexa: I’m always open to learning from my mistakes and am really passionate about what and who I love. I don’t believe environmental justice can be achieved without social justice, and I hope to one day live in a world where everyone is kinder to each other.

Izzy: I’ve been a certified scuba-diver since I was 12 (five years ago). I’ve always loved the ocean and been passionate about ocean conservation. After learning how increased carbon in our atmosphere affects the ocean’s acidity levels, I became more interested in learning about climate change. I’m really glad I joined SD350, and can’t wait for more to come!