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Just How Did Sarah Get a COP26 Badge?

Genuine relationships, commitment to do 'the work', staying connected over time and geographic distance, and reaching out for collaboration and mentorship; all factors that led me to being invited to the COP26 in November 2021.

Five years ago or so I met Jen Kretser at a NAAEE (North American Association for Environmental Education) conference while participating in an early morning indigenous people's welcome and dedication for the conference. We began talking and realized that we shared a common past of working for the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies as naturalists and educators at different times. And that was the beginning of my relationship with Jen, a dynamite climate education leader not only in the Adirondacks in New York at The Wild Center, but across the country. We also realized we share a common passion for young people learning to take civic action using their voices for the climate issues they deeply care about.

Our professional relationship has grown over the years as we have shared in many ways. Co-presenting at a conference, actively participating in the Youth Climate Summit Network, contributing to youth take-action leadership dialogues and meetings, navigating how to carry forward effectively with youth programming during a global pandemic and more. Jen's consistent generosity to share strategies, resources, celebrate others' successes, and invite people to the table into the work to join the team is tremendously appreciated. It was during the late spring of 2020 that Jen invited me to be a regional cohort leader for the upcoming (now virtual) Summer Institute for Climate Education with Climate Generation. In the spirit of willingness to work together to figure out how to facilitate online professional development during Covid-19, and to take advantage of the invitation to be recognized as a leader in the national scene of climate change education, I promptly agreed.

Throughout the last two years of serving as a regional cohort leader for the Summer Institute for Climate Education I have formed relationships with a handful of other leaders in this work. These colleagues have become mentors and friends in this work. I have continued to show up (virtually) and contribute where I can. I have taken the learnings and applied them to my Youth Water Leadership Program in many ways. It was late 2020 when I learned of the work many of these colleagues were engaged with drafting the ACE Framework. I was able to bring awareness of the Framework and its authors to Colorado (and beyond) educators through a very well attended online meeting in early 2021. These people have become part of my regular professional circle for which I am grateful.

In September I reached out and made virtual coffee meetings with two of these climate change education leaders, Frank Niepold at NOAA in Maryland and Kirsten Poppleton in Minneapolis at Climate Generation a to check in, learn about their new projects, and any potential funding or initiatives coming down the pipeline. Through those conversations the idea of me attending the COP26 was planted. I could actively join the U.S. ACE Coalition in Glasgow, Scotland at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. It seemed like a bit of a far off possibility, yet I digested the idea for at least a couple hours before sending another email to say 'yes, let's go for it!' A few weeks went by and I assumed the possibility was off the table. Then two weeks ago to my surprise I received an email from Kristen with the invitation to take advantage of an available NGO Observer badge for COP26.

Fostering relationships, continually showing up, and continuing to do 'the work' many times can lead to opportunities bigger than I can imagine. And to say 'yes', and follow the nudges and invitations, even when they do not have crystal clear direct paths and outcomes, is the secret to living a full interesting creative life of adventure and possibility.

Follow Sarah's COP26 experience at

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