Between the end of November and the beginning of January many people are in a holiday 'blur', so it is understandable if you attributed that surge of positivity and global hope you felt at the beginning of December purely to the cheer of the season. What you were really feeling on December 1st and 2nd was the emotional glow generated by over 300 community organizers, funders, nonprofits, and sustainable businesses gathering together in Manchester, New Hampshire for the 2017 RootSkills Conference put on by the New England Grassroots Environment Fund. The conference itself was formed to 'bridge the divide between social and environmental justice' and even though it was centered in New England it drew in people from as far away as California to join us.
From the visionary keynote presentations given by Vien Truong (CEO of Dream Corps), San Juana Olivares (President of the Genesee County Hispanic/Latino Collaborative), and Rev. Mariama White-Hammond (Minister for Ecological Justice, Bethel AME Church), to the workshop tracks that spanned everything from Local Food to Youth Activism, the entire conference was inspirational beyond words. Among the many sessions I attended was one delivered by members of the Maine Environmental Education Association. Hearing how MEEA has worked so hard to eliminate power dynamics within their organization based on age was a highlight of the conference for me, especially when it was being presented by the youth representatives themselves. It made me proud that Hurricane is part of MEEA's Environmental Changemaker's Network and even more energized to help empower and support youth on Hurricane Island and in our communities as the change-makers of our collective future.
The activity we participated in at RootSkills in the MEEA session had us all thinking about the opportunities and challenges we all face in helping youth have an equal voice on any playing field but particularly around environmental issues. We brainstormed and discussed our ideas in small groups while we wrote the opportunities on colorful paper fish and the challenges on small 'boulders'. We then came back together as a group and all shared what we came up with and placed our fish and boulders on a paper 'river', with all the fish moving towards the end result: empowering young people from all communities who are passionate about the environment.
Through every session we participated in, Phoebe, Robin and myself made more connections to other people and organizations and grew our mental networks as much as we grew our professional networks. We all left the conference vibrating with new ideas and positive energy and we are riding that momentum into our 2018 season. On that note.... we would love to have other passionate individuals join us on that journey so if you know of someone who would like to work on the island this summer please send them our way! :)