Youth Climate Ambassador Program Wraps Up its Second Year!Release Date: 2023-06-16
Written by: Anna Liu, Sharlene Mae Quirante, and Tatiana Roque
The City of Long Beach Office of Climate Action and Sustainability ran its second year of the Youth Climate Ambassador Program (YOU CAP). It hosted seven young people from the ages of 18 to 24 in a hybrid, 10-week, 150-hour, paid program that focused on climate change in Long Beach. From March 6th to May 12th, Ambassadors learned from climate leaders and professionals and participated in climate action and resilience projects in the City, facilitated by California Climate Action Corps Fellows Anna Liu and Tatiana Roque.
YOU CAP’s mission is to empower young people in communities most impacted by climate change to be stewards of the city they call home. Youth Climate Ambassadors learned about various topics including the history of local indigenous communities, native and non-native plants at Willow Springs Park, the impacts of climate change throughout Long Beach, environmental justice, and equity. Ambassadors then had opportunities to apply their skills and knowledge to various projects and events that support the Long Beach Climate Action Plan and its goals to increase climate resilience in the City.
By incorporating feedback and comments from YOU CAP’s 2022 cohort and facilitators, 2023 facilitators Liu and Roque increased components of equity, accessibility, inclusivity, and hands-on learning to improve the outcomes and objectives of the program.
Ambassadors developed skills in engaging and educating the community about the importance of land restoration, promoting programs to the community in accessible ways, and activating the park as a safe, urban green space. Throughout the internship, Ambassadors participated in various events, such as restoration work at Willow Springs Park, Monarch Day of Action, Cal State Long Beach’s Green Generation Showcase, First Friday at Bixby Knolls, and City Nature Challenge.
This year, Ambassadors were tasked with supporting the restoration and activation of Willow Springs Park, a native habitat and wetlands restoration project managed by the Office of Climate Action and Sustainability. Nearly all the Ambassadors expressed that they did not know of this park. Zoe, an Ambassador, shared how the park is a “hidden nature gem” located in the middle of Long Beach.
“I did not know about Willow Springs before YOU CAP, but after the first visit, I was absolutely in love with it and told everyone I knew about it,” Zoe said.
Youth Climate Ambassadors tended to the land at Willow Springs Park by weeding invasive/non-native plants, spreading mulch, and planting native Blue-eyed grass and narrow-leaf milkweed. For many, it was their first time tending to the land and partaking in restoration work. Liyla, a fellow Ambassador, stated that she never felt so connected to Earth.
“I’ve never really had the chance to sit in the soil and admire nature until this program, simply because I didn’t know where [I could],” Liyla said.
She shared how she always thought hands-on, restoration work only involved larger-scale activities. After supporting this work through YOU CAP, she realized restoration work can be as simple as pulling out invasive/non-native plants.
“Native plants need space to grow and the main thing preventing that from happening are weeds like mustard,” Liyla added.
Ambassadors also promoted Office programs and events and engaged the community through tabling events—for instance, reaching over 100 community members at CSULB’s Green Generation Showcase. For the Office’s Earth Month Event, City Nature Challenge, Ambassadors shared a nature-based activity that encouraged attendees to explore fauna and flora. They also distributed climate adaptation and eco-friendly materials to the community, such as blackout curtains and LED light bulbs. Through their collaboration, a resourceful and interactive zine was created for the community, sharing information about seed bombing, fast fashion, tips to grow avocados, and the wetlands at Willow Springs Park.
Another Ambassador, Fatima, expressed that engaging in community events gave her a “sense of belonging and connection.” She mentioned that sharing resources with the community is so valuable because not everyone has access to climate resources or education.
“It was my first time tabling and it definitely took me out of my comfort zone, but being able to help the community and providing tools for the community to adapt to climate change was a gratifying experience,” Fatima said.
Ambassadors learned from and connected with multiple climate leaders in the community. They networked with various City employees, nonprofit organization staff members, and many volunteers and interns. Facilitators considered the current ages and diverse experiences of the participants and invited climate action leaders who were well-experienced in their fields, as well as folks who were just starting their careers in climate action and environmental justice. These were safe and educational spaces for Ambassadors to learn from leaders who shared their non-linear professional and personal pathways with climate work. YOU CAP participants were able to ask them about the challenges they faced, their future goals, and advice for those just starting their journey in advocacy and environmental justice.
Youth Climate Ambassadors also had the opportunity to join educational field trips to learn about climate impacts in Long Beach. They experienced a Toxic Tour, led by Jan Andasan from East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, and learned about pollution and environmental justice in Downtown, West, and North Long Beach. Additionally, the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific hosted the Ambassadors on a tour, where they learned about the ways the aquarium educates the community and supports marine life and research.
Ambassadors expressed that in these educational opportunities, they were able to learn a lot about Long Beach and learn how community building can make an impact on residents in a city. Paris, an Ambassador, shared that she learned so much about climate action and feels “inspired to join more environmental groups and programs.”
Paris added, “meeting like-minded individuals with similar passions as my own has opened up the door for me to be more involved in my community and to create change. I was able to learn a vast array of climate-related and professional skill-building knowledge from the guest speakers and field trips, which is going to help me excel in my future.”
As the program’s 10 weeks came to an end, Ambassadors felt empowered to continue educating and involving themselves in climate action and environmental justice in Long Beach. Many expressed that YOU CAP encouraged them to continue climate action not only in their education and careers, but also to engage more with their communities and local organizations.
As facilitators of this program, Anna Liu and Tatiana Roque felt really inspired by the words and reflections shared by Ambassadors during the final day of the Youth Climate Ambassador Program.
“I’m cheerful about how the Ambassadors are inspired by their participation in this program to go into their communities and to continue climate action work,” said Tatiana. “These are the outcomes we want. We want young folks—especially those most impacted by climate change—to feel empowered and supported with these opportunities.”
Anna also shared, “when we first set out to lead this program, we intended to carry out an improved second year, continuing the program’s core values of inclusiveness, justice, accessibility, and passion for community. As the Ambassadors were learning and growing, we were also learning and growing with them. We recognize that YOU CAP exists as a unique program and have hopes for it to continue to inspire and uplift young people in Long Beach.”
On behalf of the Office of Climate Action and Sustainability, we want to acknowledge and congratulate our Ambassadors for the completion of the 2023 Youth Climate Ambassador program. Thank you for your hard work! We wish you all the best in your future adventures!
|Aidan Parmeter Dyer
Thank you so much to the people and organizations who came out to inspire and educate our youth. We are so grateful for your presence and support!
- Blanca Diaz, Office of Climate Action and Sustainability
- Callum Watson and the Teen Climate Council, Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific
- Fern Nueno, Office of Climate Action and Sustainability
- Hilda Gaytan, Puente Latino Association
- Jan Victor Andasan, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
- Larry Rich, Office of Climate Action and Sustainability
- Raelene Child, Youth Leadership Long Beach
- Sharlene Mae Quirante, Office of Climate Action and Sustainability
- Tania Roa, Closing the Gap Podcast
- Vanessa Covington, Office of Climate Action and Sustainability
- Virginia Carmelo, Tongva Elder
- Youth Climate Corps participants at Willow Springs Park
Special thanks to our YOU CAP facilitators. This program would not exist without your hard work and dedication!
- Anna Liu, California Climate Action Corps Fellow
- Tatiana Roque, California Climate Action Corps Fellow