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Key Objective: 7.5 Support Youth Sustainability

The iCAP 2020, objective 7.5 is: “Support programs to develop love of nature and sustainability among children, with an annual Youth Sustainability Summit led by local teenagers with guidance and mentoring from campus and community sustainability leaders.” The responsible campus unit for championing this objective is Extension. Progress is tracked in the iCAP Portal project page for Support Youth Sustainability.

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In our efforts to reach community members, we must remain vigilant to the crucial role that children, teenagers, and young adults play in shaping our society’s environmental values. 

This objective provides local youth with a sustainability “compass.” Embedded within our strategies is another key opportunity: encouraging positive peer mentoring and collaboration between students of all ages — from first grade through high school. The City of Urbana Sustainability Advisory Commission[1] currently facilitates an annual Youth Sustainability Summit. Led by local teenagers under the guidance of campus and community sustainability experts, the summit provides a unique opportunity for students of all academic stages to think critically and decisively about environmental issues.

In addition to independently organized programs like the Summit, we hope to lean on the many opportunities to foster connections between local students and university scholars. During their time on campus, many undergrad and graduate students participate in programs that involve imparting wisdom and life skills to younger generations. Previously, groups such as Illini Mentoring, Eat4Health, and the Sustainability Living Learning Community have visited local schools to present on sustainability topics. Keeping health and safety precautions in mind, we want to encourage similar programs when it becomes safe to do so and continue to provide opportunities for our students to serve as peer educators in the community.

Educational opportunities outside the classroom are the third key component to achieving this objective. More so than simply providing local youth with information, we will offer rich and interactive educational experiences: for example, a “Composting 101” event, or an interactive workshop on reusing glass bottles as planters. We will support these programs by crafting marketing campaigns, incentivizing participation, and gathering information to measure success and identify areas for improvement.

It has been said that “children are the future,” which rings ever true in the context of sustainability. Ultimately, we hope to guide children toward environmental stewardship by instilling within them lifelong sustainability values: a passion for nature, consciousness of individual action, and the tools to communicate what they’ve learned. 


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