At the end of February, our intern team from San Lorenzo High got up early on a Saturday to present at the 2018 Youth for the Environment and Sustainability (YES) Conference at Laney College in Oakland. The YES Conference is put on annually by Spare the Air with sponsorship from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. At this event, students, teachers, and youth leaders from the Bay Area come together to discuss transportation, climate change, and air quality. At this year’s conference, there were youth from all over the bay presenting on a wide and rich variety of topics. There were also great activities for attendees throughout the day, including a make your own smoothie bike blender and “eco-carnival” games. For most of our interns, this was their first experience attending a conference, let alone presenting at one.
After several weeks of preparation, the team was ready to present on “Tree Inventory & Urban Forest Value”. They were scheduled to present in the morning session, so shortly after we arrived and checked in, we did a practice run through in an empty corridor. Following the quick practice, there was an opening ceremony that was PACKED with people. Speakers ranged from ambitious youth to mayor of Oakland Libby Schaaf, and even a Native American man that recited a traditional chant meant to inspire a sense of connection to each other and the Earth.
As the welcoming ceremony came to a close, the interns started to feel nervous and made their way to the room where they would present. They got to the classroom and set up their presentation slideshow and interactive activity. Audience members trickled in until the room was completely full! Once they started their presentation, the time flew by. The team was able to get audience members to ask questions and participate in their activity, which gave everyone a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Once it was over, everyone felt empowered and were able to enjoy the rest of the day. The interns visited various tables, played games, won giveaways, and attended other youth’s presentations during the afternoon session. At the end of the day, everyone came together for the closing ceremony where they heard additional speeches and even a poet from an organization called Youth Speaks. It was a great way to close out a great event!
After having some time to reflect, the interns obviously had a valuable and memorable experience. Most expressed wanting to return next year and attend other conferences as well. Here are what some interns had to say about the experience:
“I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to remember everything I needed to say in my part of the presentation but it was rewarding to see that the audience reacted well to what we had to say. It was nice that the audience wanted to hear about our own personal experiences with tree inventory and working with trees in our own communities.”
-Aubury Freed, San Lorenzo High Intern
“The event was really comfortable. I really don’t know what it was but it felt like I could be myself. We were all sharing something in common. It felt good to have people listening and a group of people who care about the same environmental issues and problems we all face. I learned that you really have to put yourself out there and not be shy so the audience trusts you.”
-Ariana Umildad, San Lorenzo High Intern
Thanks for reading – until next time!