Youth wetlands summitMay 10th, 2012 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: top story
The 2012 Youth Wetlands Summit will be held at the Davant YMCA on May 14. High school students in 10th, 11th, and 12th grade interested in environmental issues are encouraged to sign up. Participating students will enjoy hands-on workshops, presentations, and field exercises in the upcoming Youth Wetlands Summit, a by the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center. Photo by Diane Huhn
With internet, video games and television being so easily accessible and widely consumed, the great outdoors has some stiff competition in getting the attention of today’s youth. But a group of Southern Louisiana high school students seem to be bucking that trend.
The 2012 Wetlands Youth Summit, hosted by the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center will be held at the Davant YMCA on May 12, where several students from parishes all over Southern Louisiana, including Plaquemines, will be attending.
According to Jonathan Foret, Development Director of the South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center, the upcoming session is going to be better than ever.
“It’s really exciting, it’s the same format as the last session in February, but we have different partners which allow us to offer new programs to students,” said Foret. “We had a great response from the last session. People got excited and the kids wanted more activities.”
Foret says there were almost 50 students who participated in the last session, and the numbers are still rolling in for this session.
The summit is open to 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students in Plaquemines Parish who are interested in wetlands and coastal preservation issues. High school teachers are asked to recruit high school students who are in good academic standing, interested in wetlands preservation, possess leadership potential, and have good communication and problem solving skills. But Foret says what is really important is that the student has a genuine interest in wetlands issues.
“We don’t want to discourage students from participating because of grades, so interest in the issues is really key,” said Foret. “Some students might not have the best grades, but do a great job as advocates for the coast.”
Through hands-on-workshops, presentations, and field exercises, students get the chance to better understand ongoing gulf issues from regional professionals and experts on the subject. This year, resource conservation and development council Bayou Land RC&D, and the UNO Ponchartrain Institute for Environmental Sciences will be holding workshops for students.
Jennifer Roberts of Bayou Land RC&D says “the overarching goal is to discuss with students the importance of coastal restoration, the role of local communities in the process, and how they can be informed and involved.”
“My goal,” Roberts continued, “is to help them to understand our coastal system through a few targeted exercises focusing on the river and native vegetation.”
UNO-CHART, the Center For Hazards Assessment Response and Technology, will also be conducting a workshop on land use. Youth environmental group FLAG (Future Leaders of America’s Gulf) will also be giving a presentation, something Foret feels is especially important.
“The Youth Group presentation was one of the more valuable sessions of the February summit, because it allowed students to see their peers make things happen in terms of issues facing the Gulf Coast,” explained Foret.
FLAG is a group of high school students who, according to member Ryan Williams, work to break down the complex scientific issues as simply as possible so everyone can understand the issues and get involved. One of FLAG’s main missions is to give the youth of the Gulf Coast a voice, and to keep them educated about the ongoing gulf and wetlands problems via social media, videos, and other effective outlets.
Williams says FLAG’s participation in the last Wetlands Youth Summit was a great experience. One of FLAG’s plans for the upcoming summit, Williams explained, was to “talk about what we do and to let other kids know that they can do something.”
Essentially, what the summit is about is empowering youth, and reinforcing the idea that teens do have a voice when it comes to environmental issues— they just have to use it.
“We need to come together to save our homes,” Williams explained. “Even when we go away to college and leave our homes, we need to make sure the culture and tradition is kept alive in this unique place where we grew up.”