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.
Thank to Rios to Rivers for cover photo by Weston Boyles