While the term “sustainability” has become part of the vernacular for many North Carolinians, it is a term that is often deeply misunderstood and/or underappreciated. There is a growing acceptance of the sustainable movement in local government, business, and non-profits; but there remains a gap between policy implementation and the involvement of today’s youth. Simply put, the youth have the most to lose and their voice is largely unheard. In Chapel Hill, and in many other communities around the world, sustainability is described as a three-legged stool which involves a balanced and holistic approach to addressing the social, economic and environmental needs of a community. Sustainability transcends the issues of age, race, religion, and gender.
Living with the decisions and actions of the past while working to create a more a sustainable future is one of the greatest challenges the youth will face in their lifetime. This program is aimed to empower the youth of our community by exposing them to knowledge and skills that will allow them to become leaders of change in their homes, schools, neighborhoods and in the community at-large. The cornerstone of the Mayor’s Youth for a Sustainable Future initiative is a commitment to civic education and engagement. Mayor Kleinschmidt believes that this program should be created by students for students, using tools similar to those employed in our local political system. Students who complete this program will learn the skills necessary to make positive changes that will have a lasting impression on future generations, both in Chapel Hill and wherever these young agents of change may eventually reside.
To empower the youth to become leaders of change in their homes, schools, neighborhoods and community by way of the political process through engagement in relevant, hands-on sustainable learning models.
Since January 2007, the Chapel Hill Youth Council has provided an opportunity for young people to participate in local government and to learn skills of leadership and responsibility. The Mayor’s initiative aims to broaden the youth’s learning opportunities through hands-on sustainability related experiences that demonstrate how citizens can make change by way of the political process.
The Mayor’s Office petitioned the Youth Council to consider creating a sustainability program for the youth of Chapel Hill. Additionally, the Mayor’s Office offered to support the program in a manner that is consistent with the Youth Council’s vision for this project.
In June 2008, the Chapel Hill Youth Council, in response to the petition by the Mayor’s Office, appointed a summer sub-committee to develop a sustainability initiative for the youth of Chapel Hill. This sub-committee included staff members from the Mayor’s Office, the UNC Environmental Resource Program, Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Department and the Chapel Hill Office of Sustainability. The sub-committee recommended a title and detailed outline for a four-part program that was unanimously approved at the first Youth Council meeting in September 2008.
Support for this initiative was made possible through generous contributions from the following community partnerships: