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CNY Youth Climate Summit Inspires Next Gen of Environmentalists

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Feb. 8, 2024 - More than 100 middle and high school students and their teachers will do a deep dive into environmental activism at the CNY Youth Climate Summit at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) Saturday, Feb. 10.

Students will hear from environmental experts, connect with educators and professionals, and create Climate Action Plans for their schools and communities.

Several students are returning from last year’s summit with updates on those action plans.

“Last year, there were students who wanted to plan a Blackout Day to have their school shut off all lights and as many of their electronics as possible,” said Daniel Collins, Associate Director of ESF in the High School. “I encouraged them to take notes throughout the year on the school’s power usage and what it looked like on Blackout Day.” The students will present the results of Blackout Day during the summit.

Assistant Professors Jaime Shinn and Michael Mikulewicz will speak to students about climate justice and how the consequences of climate change are unequally distributed along lines of wealth and race.

The summit is one of several ESF initiatives to engage with area schools and encourage study in STEM fields.

Students who attend the CNY Youth Climate Summit are likely to be interested in careers that address climate change and the environment, according to Collins. “Approximately 10 percent of students who attended last year’s summit have since enrolled at ESF,” he said.

The summit is organized by the NYS Masters Teachers, many of whom are ESF alumni.

“The Master Teachers inspire the students and ensure the continued success of the program,” said Collins. “The novel ideas created and implemented by the students are supported by teacher-guided research and organization.”

The CNY Youth Climate Summit is one of many climate conferences featuring a generation of activists poised to inherit the continued impacts of climate change. “One of the summit goals is to prepare students to onboard the next generation of climate warriors, as the effects of climate change will play out throughout many generations.”

This year, Collins wants students to take away a sense of self-empowerment. “There is going to be some level of climate anxiety, but we are trying to push past that and hold on to hope and optimism.”


The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is dedicated to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable and resilient future through design, policy, and management of the environment and natural resources. Members of the College community share a passion for protecting the health of the planet and a deep commitment to the rigorous application of science to improve the way humans interact with the world. The College offers academic programs ranging from the associate of applied science to the Doctor of Philosophy. ESF students live, study and do research on the main campus in Syracuse, N.Y., and on 25,000 acres of field stations in a variety of ecosystems across the state.

By Landon Debes, writing intern in ESF’s Office of Communications and Marketing.