Training tomorrow’s leaders today

Student Leadership SummitNicole Rohr, Assistant Director of the URI Coastal Institute

 I had the pleasure of being invited to lead a session at the Youth United for Global Action and Awareness Summit hosted by Plan International USA.

When I was first invited, I was simply asked to discuss climate change with high school students from around the U.S. and the world who would be at the Summit. I was given three hours for an activity and….drew a blank. How do I explain all of the intricacies of climate change to teenagers? What interesting perspective could I bring?

We ultimately ended up discussing the politics of climate change and how to communicate the impacts–specifically hurricanes in Rhode Island and drought in California–to a variety of interest groups. The groups were charged to tweak the climate change message based on the interest group to whom they were giving a hypothetical talk in order to affect change.

These are hard concepts. They require adept and critical thinking, and I was relying on the students coming up to speed quickly based on limited information I prepared. I was also nervous that my activity would flop because many professionals I know struggle to effectively do this.

I was absolutely blown away by these students.

They tackled the activity with enthusiasm, were not daunted in the slightest by the hard concepts, and crafted great messages in less than an hour that they delivered to the group. They were funny, engaging, smart, and eager to participate in the discussion.

Impressive, right? And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Chatting with these students during breaks and after the session, I was impressed with their maturity and dedication. They are already active in their local communities on a wide range of issues, including climate change, and many are preparing to apply to the most rigorous universities in the country.

They have career goals that this 30-something has not yet dreamed.

Thank you, Plan International USA, for inviting me to participate in this unique and worthwhile experience. And, congratulations to all of the students who chose to attend the Summit. I have no doubt I will hear your names again…maybe even as you lead efforts to prepare for climate change.