In our first Convening on Youth Co-Powerment, SCA hosted figures from the conservation, social justice, and youth development sectors to identify new ways to support young people eager to act on climate change and other urgent environmental concerns.

We define “co-powerment” as an alchemy that occurs when we work together to form a level playing field with equal footing, mutual respect, and joint objectives. And thanks to some extraordinary presenters – including members of SCA’s Pittsburgh program – and event participants, the online Convening provided two days of creative engagement and enlightenment.

Here are just some of the highlights:

Day 1 Spark Talks

SCA invited four guests speakers to help stimulate thinking and collaboration:

A Challenge to Pass the Baton: Vaughn Perry, 11th Street Bridge Park 

“Always be prepared for your moment.”


Getting to the Roots of Climate Change: Lana Weidgenant, Zero Hour

“Young people always shift culture toward progress.”



Reflections on Communicating to Make Your Voice Heard: Benjamin May, ThinkOcean

“Generally, anything before ‘but’ isn’t true.”



A Proposal for Disability Inclusion in the Outdoors: Sarah Burroughs, Empathy AccessEd

“Nothing about us without us.”


Day 2 Foundation Breakouts

Communications Across Generations: Alex Crispino & Karen Maven, PwC

“Part of moving forward is understanding where you’ve been.”



Building Inclusive Teams: Ann Pedtke, Food Bank For New York City, & Chris-Michael Tena, Student Conservation Association

“Instilling an ethic in someone else is contradictory to the idea of co-powerment.”



Addressing Traditional Power Structures: Parker McMullen Bushman, Ecoinclusive

“Skills for addressing bias and oppression in organizations.”



Social Emotional Learning Practices: Aurelia Casey, Staten Island Academy/Brooklyn Center for the Arts & Abby Brokaw, Student Conservation Association

“Defining SEL has been one of the biggest challenges in the field of research.”



Youth Panel: SCA Pittsburgh Interns Hassan Hassan, Kalu Kramer, Autumn Thomas, and Sophia Weger

“Younger people, the older generation – we need to become one solid team to achieve anything.”


Five Takeaways from the SCA Convening on Youth Co-Powerment

  1. SCA’s Mission Has Never Been More Vital. Conservation, climate change, social justice, environmental justice: SCA can help address these issues and put young people back to work.
  2. Today’s Young People Only Want Opportunity. What can more established generations do to support today’s youth? SCA Pittsburgh interns agree: “Help us build a stronger foundation.”
  3. Cross-Generation Builds a Strong Federation. Event participants found this cross-generational, cross-sector, cross-community dialogue on ecological issues to be invigorating and inspiring.
  4. The Intersectionality of Everything. As they examine climate change and chronic societal needs, they seem determined to address these challenges as part of the larger conservation agenda.
  5. Covid Changed Everything – and Some for the Better. Our axis has shifted. Covid’s consequences are staggering. Yet we’ve also learned the “impossible” is doable. We can make change.

we are the changemakers

The Convening sparked attendee Elyria Little to write this poem.

we may not think
we’re all that important
but we keep on showing up
for the hard talks.
we build trails with no end
in sight, and even though
we try to plan it all out —
we learn as we go
that our real challenge isn’t
how to make space, it’s how to
hold space. and we keep right on
showing up. we learn to keep
each other safe because
we understand, now,
that making change
means being brave,
brave enough to risk
changing ourselves
along with
our world. 

and for that work of lifetimes,
we need to show up, and more:
we need all the dreams
we dare to share —
and we need
all the hands that care
to hold them. 

– Elyria Rose Little

SCA is grateful for the JPB Foundation’s support of the SCA Convening on Youth Co-Powerment. We also extend our thanks to all who participated, and look forward to taking our next steps together.

“Even though it was virtual, it felt more personal and deeper than other conferences.”

– Convening attendee