DENVER — While the kids behind DPS Students for Climate Action met in-person for the first time on June 3 at Congress Park, the group has been working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to put forth a climate resolution to the Denver Public Schools Board of Education.
“I was definitely more involved in sustainability in Colorado since the pandemic,” said Felicia Winfrey, a 2021 South High School graduate. Kendall Ogin, a 2021 graduate from East High School, thinks increased spare time during pandemic quarantine caused people “to stop and take a step back.”
Youth sustainably leaders like Felicia and Kendall across Denver Public Schools connected in the fall of 2020 through the Youth Sustainability Board, a student-based, nonprofit that develops sustainability initiatives throughout DPS. The current group comprises of middle and high school students from almost a dozen schools.
Their goal: to address climate change.
Denver Public Schools students push for climate action
DPS Students for Climate Action hope to push a resolution through the Board of Education.
“With YSB, or the Youth Sustainability Board, a group of around five sustainability club presidents from DPS were meeting in the fall and thinking about how we wanted there to be a sustainability curriculum in DPS,” said Felicia.
And then, early in the new year, a DPS parent and Citizens’ Climate Lobby committee member contacted the group with an idea.
“Heather Bird Jackson reached out to us…She noticed that over 80 school districts across the U.S. have already passed resolutions on climate action,” recounted Kendall.
Led by Felicia and Kendall, DPS Students for Climate Action got to work. In April of 2021, the group finished their DPS Climate Resolution Final Draft. Their goals include increasing renewable electricity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, prioritizing actions that would address inequities and environmental injustices in schools, and integrating sustainability into the district’s core values. A proposed task force would implement these primary goals and figure out how the school district will pay for the initiatives.
"No matter if a student is an elementary student or a high schooler, we think it's very important for them to be taught about sustainability and about how to live a healthier and more environmentally conscience life," Felicia said.
The process, Felicia said, has been moving slowly due to the recent DPS superintendent search. But the group plans to push forward beyond the school year. By August of this year, they will have spoken at multiple board meetings and hope that the board will vote in favor of their resolution.
“What we’re asking for is not small and we recognize that,” Felicia said. “It’s going to cost a lot of money, but there are already school districts around the country that are already doing this and have done it without the promise of federal funding.”
The financial aspect, as part of the overall action plan, is something the proposed task force would work on for a full year before reporting to the Board of Education.
In the end, DPS Students for Climate Action hopes to leave a lasting legacy.
“We feel that teaching students about climate action will have long term impacts and will allow every child to be a thoughtful student of the earth, especially after they graduate,” Kendall said. "We need to build a future that is livable for the students of DPS ... We are stewards of this earth, and we need to take care of it."
Clarissa Guy is a multimedia journalist for Rocky Mountain PBS. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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