Three years ago, Miami Youth Climate (MYC) was a high school club like most others.
Now, its two student leaders are bringing together environmental advocates, politicians, educators, and hundreds of students for a summit to discuss how to combat climate change in South Florida.
The summit, to be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 6, is a free virtual event featuring Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and climate change activists Delaney Reynolds and Danni Washington.
“We’re trying to show students that their voice really matters within the climate space and that they really can drive change,” said Gianna Hutton, co-president of the summit and a junior at Palmetto Senior High.
Hutton and her co-president, Palmer Trinity senior Leandro de Armas, were both introduced to the climate crisis while learning about it in school.
“It never settled in with me until I was in my AP environmental science class, where I learned how relevant it is to Miami and how we are a front-line community,” said Hutton. “It really propelled me to get involved.”
Both students joined MYC through their teachers and gained positions of leadership within their own schools. But recognizing the need for a broader coalition, they reached out to students across South Florida.
The move worked, and last year they hosted a conference at Florida International University with 200 students.
When the pandemic hit, however, they did not know what was going to happen. But as it turned out, hosting the summit remotely brought opportunities. Among those who joined their effort: Washington, the TV personality who focuses on women and science and climate change.
“It sounded bizarre at first,” Hutton said. “She was someone that I looked up to, and I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ ”
And the virtual meetings have brought attention across the country and the globe. Saturday’s event has already reached 270 participants, with some students planning to participate from Brazil.
“Knowing that there is an audience out there that’s really engaged not only on a local scale in South Florida, but on a global scale is really encouraging,” Hutton said.
This year, MYC is centering the summit around education. The summit will host workshops on the arts, advocacy, and teaching, focusing not only on the impact of climate change, but showing students what they can do about it.
“Seeing other youth take action was what actually got me involved in the climate movement,” said de Armas. “So it’s nice that I’ve brought it full circle, and now I’m actually helping organize the youth myself.”
HOW TO SIGN UP FOR THE CLIMATE CHANGE SUMMIT
You can learn more and sign up for the summit at this website: https://www.miamiyouthclimatesummit.org/