By Will Hassel, Glenwood Springs Middle School Student
From the beginning of middle school, I have been involved in various teams and clubs that all have some connection to water. In 6th grade, half of the year was devoted to a unit on rivers. Nate Higginson, from the Middle Colorado Watershed Council took this opportunity to form a River Watch Club for Glenwood Springs Middle School. A couple of friends and I went out once a week to collect and analyze the water from streams near the school. The following year, I got to do a presentation at the first Youth Water Summit about Two Rivers Park and water quality there. I was interested in the program, so Rob Buirgy, the teacher who helped me with the presentation, gave me the information about the leader team.
I thought that the team would be composed of ten or so middle schoolers doing nothing and one adult that would do everything. I imagined that everything would be planned out, like a classroom lesson and that we would make minimal progress in a long span of time.
It turned out that there were many different ages of participants: 8th graders, high schoolers, and college interns. When we met in the fall to start planning for the summit, it felt like everyone had an idea to pitch in or a thought to share. It was super cool to see everyone come together.
I think that the main thing that I learned from this experience is that I have the power to do what I think is right. When I had an idea and participated in discussion, everyone listened and actually thought about my input. When I presented my group’s Lens on Climate Change film (Green Skis) at the Healthy Rivers Youth Water Summit, there were a lot of strangers, as well as people that I knew that asked a lot of questions. These questions gave me a reason to think deeper about my topics, which allowed me to understand them better. Everyone in the room was watching, which proves that they care. Similarly, when I was watching other students’ presentations, I saw that they too were having an impact on everyone else in the room.
This was an amazing experience, and I think that it was a great opportunity for me to learn and grow.
Author Will Hassel served on the Youth Water Leadership Program's 2018 Summit Leader Team and is a student at Glenwood Springs Middle School in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
Originally Published Nov. 30, 2018 in The Sopris Sun
By Katia Meyer, Youth Water Leadership Program Intern
On November 15, students from all over the valley gathered at the Third Street Center for a day of water and river related presentations, speakers, short films, discussions, and fun during the Healthy Rivers Youth Water Summit.
Middle and high school students, as well as college students, brought their call-to-action projects focused on local water and climate change issues to share with their peers and community leaders, policy makers, and decision makers. New this year was the addition of the “Opportunity Expo,” a career fair-like event during lunch, where students had the chance to connect with local organizations and learn about natural resource focused camps, apprenticeships, internships, and courses they can take advantage of during the summer and as undergraduate students.
Part of my role as the Program Intern was to be a member of the Summit Leader Team. We were charged with choosing a logo, building a website, choosing a keynote speaker, building games and interactive activities for the event, and giving input on many other aspects of the Summit. One thing experience this taught me was the value of communication.
As a college student, working with everyone from middle and high schoolers to adult leaders and community members brought many unique perspectives to the table. We had to find a way to combine them into one final product that everyone was happy with. I learned how to share my ideas clearly and truly listen to what others had to say. When organizing participants of the Expo or interviewing local water leaders for my independent research project, I had a chance to further put my communication skills to the test through countless emails, phone calls, and in-person meetings. After pushing my comfort zone to talk to so many new people, I feel ready for any interview, project, or organizing I might have to do in the future.
As the program’s intern, I got to see the summit from a unique perspective. I spent much of it greeting presenters, grabbing last minute signs, facilitating games, and presenting my own call-to-action project.
In between the rush, I witnessed small moments that made the months of preparation worth it. When Christa Sadler, Colorado River advocate and special guest speaker from Flagstaff, asked if anyone had ideas for how to help people care about natural landscapes they might never see, dozens of students jumped up and gave passionate answers. I watched a student who had hardly talked when Sarah and I visited her River Watch class weeks prior, beaming with excitement when she answered questions on her group’s project about water rights. I saw students branch out from their school groups to meet new people and have enthusiastic discussions.
Everyone who attended the Summit seemed to both teach and learn a great deal in such a short time.
If I learned anything from this experience, it’s that every student has a voice, and a powerful one. Some were louder – the first to jump up and reach for a microphone so that everyone could hear what they had to say. Some were quieter – those who reserved their comments for group discussions and needed more encouragement. All of them however, were passionate about issues that matter to them, beaming with optimism and ideas for the future.
These days it can be easy to feel like there’s no way to solve the problems facing our watershed, but listening to what students have to say could be a great start.
Author Katia Meyer served on the Youth Water Leadership Program's 2018 Summit Leader Team as the program intern and is a student at Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs, Colorado