Engaging Young Adults in Climate Solutions

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This training provides a background to learn more about millennials’ concerns, how to get them involved and connect your CCL team’s outreach with local college students and higher education communities as we work to engage campus leaders in CCL‘s larger coalition.

TOC and Guide Section

Young adults face disproportionate impacts from climate change and empowering them as future leaders will be key to CCL’s long-term strategy. Higher Education institutions play a critical role as leaders in our communities and key influencers for members of Congress. The CCL Higher Education Action Team works to harness the power of higher education for political climate action.  Higher education is a large and powerful constituency that includes science and policy experts, community leaders, and young adults who will be most affected by climate change. Together they wield enormous intellectual, political, and economic capital. We believe that high education’s role as creators and disseminators of knowledge, as well as its mission to educate responsible citizens, puts it in a unique and powerful position as an advocate for climate action.

Getting Involved

The mission of Citizens’ Climate Higher Education Action Team is to empower students, educators, and their allies to build political will for carbon pricing legislation. We assist volunteers with outreach, education, endorsements, creating campus chapters and more. You are welcome to join us as a student or a non-student interested in higher education outreach. 

We offer three programs for volunteers looking to get involved:

  1. Higher Ed Allies Program 
    This program is for non-student members interested in strategic outreach to target universities. We have a monthly call, resources, guidance, and a peer network to support you in doing outreach to higher education!
  2. Campus Leaders Program
    This program is for students interested in doing climate advocacy on campus. We have a monthly call, resources (like the Campus Leaders Manual), guidance, and a peer network to support you.
  3.  Chapter Internships 
    If you are a group leader interested in hosting an internship, visit this page for more information. If you are a student and interested in doing an internship with a local chapter, please contact the group leader of your nearest chapter.
Identity your targets

Which colleges or universities will be your target for outreach? Which president do you want to endorse carbon fee and dividend?  Schools that are local to you are obvious choices, but if you live in an area with a lot of schools, which ones have the most potential for engagement? Residential schools with a close-knit community tend to be better for engaging students, while large schools are more influential if you get their president’s endorsement.  Where do you have connections that you could utilize? Your alma mater may be a good place to start because you already know people there. Please contact ccl.highered@citizensclimatelobby.org to find out if any outreach has already been done at your target schools. See our list of current student chapters. 

Goal-setting and background research

Obviously, at CCL our goal is to build political will for carbon fee and dividend. For higher ed, we have the following goals: 

  • Finding students to participate in the local chapter, CCL's conferences, and lobbying
  • Finding student leader(s) and starting campus chapters
  • Getting Presidents' endorsements
  • Finding students for CCL internships
  • Interest faculty in integrating climate advocacy into the curriculum
    Rallying support for carbon pricing or raising funds from the alumni community

Your goal could be all of these, but getting students involved tends to be the first step that will help you with the other goals. 

Once you've identified your goals and target university, identify the people you want to reach out to. Key people to know are the school’s sustainability director, environmental studies faculty, and civic engagement coordinator.  The sustainability director is in charge of making the school more sustainable and energy efficient. He or she probably also manages a sustainability committee. The environmental studies faculty teach students that care about the environment. We keep a list of school contacts that you can search or add to. Please contact ccl.highered@citizensclimatelobby.org o get access to that list.  

Working with Middle and High School Students
  • Youth Action Team - The Youth Action Team is co-led by Sharon Bagatell (sharon.bagatell@citizensclimatelobby.org). Our focus is on supporting young people to be active, engaged, and empowered in building political will for climate solutions by providing them a space within CCL to communicate and interact with other young people. We also welcome adult allies, and will help educate and support local chapters in providing opportunities for effective and empowering youth engagement.

  • Invite & Promote - If you are a student, you can search CCL Chapters to find a group closest to you, then email the chapter to learn how you can join! If you are looking to engage young people and your chapter has its own website, consider creating a “Youth Tab” that lists the resources that have been provided here in this presentation.
  • School Outreach - Make a list of middle/high schools in your district. Determine if anyone in your chapter has a connection to these schools (they might be better at reaching out to a particular school). Reach out to science/AP science teachers, counselors, and student clubs (National Honors Society, Beta Club, SGA, environmental club, etc.), and present them with student opportunities (volunteer or internships). When reaching out to schools, it might be best to use Citizens’ Climate Education in your introduction. 
  • Youth Inquiry-Highlight the way for high school students to reach out to their local groups or Regional Fellows if there is no nearby chapter, who will then connect them with the young adult network of CCL and their regional coordinator.
  • Youth Presentation Toolkit- The Youth Action Team, in conjunction with the Presenters Action Team, has created a Youth Presentation Kit that allows students to present on climate change and CCL’s solution through their eyes.
  • Schools For Climate Action - is a great youth outreach initiative that helps student councils, school boards, PTAs, teachers' unions, and county offices of education pass resolutions that do three things:
    • 1. Drive a paradigm shift so people recognize climate change as a generational justice and equity issue.
    • 2. Clearly articulate the political will for all elected leaders, especially Members of Congress, to support or enact common sense climate policies (such as carbon pricing)
    • 3. Celebrate and expand school district responses to climate change.
  • Check the website to see if your state has a resolution on the list (to date, there are 95 Resolutions in 11 states and DC so far) . We've spent 5 days on Capitol Hill meeting with Members of Congress or their staff- each time with resolutions in hand. We've partnered with schools in the DC area, so that every Member of Congress receives a visit from school children who deliver an overview and full list of all of our resolutions. In addition, youth have engaged in over 40 meetings on the Hill to discuss the education sector's response to climate change and ask Congress for action.
  • The Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) works to educate young people on the science of climate change and empower them to take action. Our Climate Our Future is an award-winning, interactive climate education resource that brings climate change and solutions to life and the ACE Youth Action Network is made of 300,000 young people taking action in all 50 states.
Pursuing an endorsement

Talk to your sustainability director about the possibility of getting an endorsement from the college president. If he/she might be amenable, the next step would be to make a presentation to the sustainability committee to get their endorsement. If you are working with a student, then the student can make a presentation and get the endorsement of the sustainability committee or student government association. Once you’ve built that grassroots support, you can ask for a meeting with the president. See our endorsements webpage for resources. 

Reaching out via email or phone

Reach out to contacts at your target universities and tell them about the opportunities for student civic engagement.  Be polite, concise, and have something to offer. You should not ask them to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act in your first email. Instead you want to let them know about the upcoming CCL regional conference and student discount; tell them that we offer internships and leadership development programs for students, or offer to table or do a presentation on climate change at their Earth Day event. See these Outreach Template Emails for examples of what to say. Invite them to a call with you to discuss opportunities for collaboration, or ask them to forward to students the most relevant current opportunity. It’s very likely that you will not hear back from them the first time. Follow up by phone or email and keep trying!

For those who respond to an invitation to have a call, have a conversation with them about opportunities for collaboration. Ask them questions about how you can further engage with the school. 

  • What sustainability events are being organized on campus? Can we contribute to that event by tabling, hosting a film, or giving a presentation?
  • Do you teach climate change? Could we present to your class, department, or campus?
  • Do you know students who would be interested starting a climate club or campaign? Can you share our student leadership opportunities with your students? Would your students be interested in internships with CCL?
  • We’re having a conference in [City] on [Date]. Would you encourage your students to go or give them extra credit to go?
  • Would you be interested in helping us pursue the president’s endorsement?
Tabling & presenting

Tabling is one of the easier things to get a school to agree to. September and January are good times to table on campus, as well as Earth Week. Students at the start of the semester are eager to get involved in organizations, and missing the opportunity to do so early means that they will get involved in other organizations instead of ours.  Contact the student activities coordinator to find out how to table at your school. Download our flyers and handouts.

 In order for the sustainability director, environmental studies faculty, or the students to get involved, they need to learn more about CCL. Making a presentation to your target audience is the best way to do this. You can ask your contact if they could host you as a speaker. I have created presentations tailored for a higher ed audience that you can download at citizensclimatehighered.org/presentations.

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Introductions and Agenda
(from beginning)

Why Young People?

Higher Education Community Leaders

What Can I Do?

Opportunities For College Students

Opportunities For Middle & High School Students

  • Clara Fang
  • Jess Wilber
  • Destiny Loyd

Download PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation. (Additional CCL For Students: Opportunities Slides Here)

Download the video

Audio length
Press play to start the audio (32m 32s)
Audio embed code
Audio Outline

To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Introductions and Agenda
(from beginning)

Why Young People?

Higher Education Community Leaders

What Can I Do?

Opportunities For College Students

Opportunities For Middle & High School Students

  • Clara Fang
  • Jess Wilber
  • Destiny Loyd
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Go Deeper

Join the Citizens Climate Higher Education Action Team and/or Youth Action Team.

Are you a student or higher education ally that would like to get more involved? Contact ccl.highered@citizensclimatelobby.org!

Join the CCL Higher Education mailing list and Facebook group

Find more resources, support, and schedule for the team's next monthly call at citizensclimatehighered.org

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Grassroots Outreach, Communicating with Others
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