Southwest students advocate for climate action at Capitol

Southwest High School students Klara Foss (left), Hema Patel (center) and Anna Smalley (right) were part of a group of students who advocated for climate action at the state Capitol last month.

Members of a Southwest High School student group advocated for clean energy policies and practices at the state Capitol this spring.

Students on the Southwest Community Education Green Team participated in the annual Youth Climate Justice Summit that the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Climate Generation: A Will Steger Legacy hosted on April 25 in conjunction with several other organizations. The students met with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and local legislators and attended workshops on climate change and clean energy solutions.

Eleventh-grader Hema Patel, president of the Southwest green team, said the students met people their age and talked about different ways to approach government and talk about issues they find important.

Eleventh-grader Klara Foss said it was cool to talk with other youth about the systems they have and what they’re doing at their schools.

“They just have such good ideas,” she said.

The team members met with local DFL legislators Scott Dibble and Frank Hornstein as well as Sen. Dan Hall, a Republican from Apple Valley. Foss said Hornstein enthusiastically suggested that he and the students propose a bill on composting in the schools.

Eleventh-grader Anna Smalley, the green team’s service coordinator, said she thought it was cool to see the number of people who were unafraid to voice their opinions. She said it made a lot of the students realize there are so many reasons why they care.

She noted one workshop about how students could work to get climate change incorporated into their school curricula. In other workshops, Petal said, participants discussed environmental racism and the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline.

Southwest green team advisor Andrew Gramm said the event was a great demonstration of what democracy can look like. He said everyone is better off when young people have opportunities to advocate for themselves and their futures.

“All young people have these gifts to offer,” Gramm said, adding that it’s great for their development when they have opportunities to advocate for themselves.

The Southwest green team has about 60 students who regularly show up to meetings, Smalley said. The team’s goal is to raise awareness of environmental issues through student leadership, according to its website.

The group educates other students on environmental topics, performs community service projects and works to make Southwest greener. It also works to find intersectionality between racial justice, environmental justice and wellness, Patel and Smalley said.

Patel said the team has been working to make the lunchroom at Southwest zero waste. The group wrote a grant to get new bins in the lunchroom, organics and recycling pick up and reusable plates and silverware at the school.

Other projects have including volunteering at Arc’s Value Village Thrift Stores, working with the organization Day for Girls to make female hygiene kits and teaching students at Southwest how to use recycling and compost bins. The group had a speaker from Hennepin County, Kira Berglund, talk with them before they went out to educate their fellow students on recycling, Patel said.

“I feel that’s a big thing with our team,” she said. “We definitely want to educate ourselves to educate others.”