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Empowering youth sustainability

Winnipeg School Division held its first-ever WSD Youth for Sustainable Living conference on May 9 at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The event drew Grade 7 to 12 students from across WSD to focus on three thematic pillars of sustainability: Expose (the problem); Empower (the masses); Educate (the people).

WSD students played a major role in organizing the event. Approximately 12 students served on the conference committee.

“It’s really empowering to have students of all ages help put this together and learn from each other,” said Sisler Grade 12 student Francesca Espiritu, who served on the committee.

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Students had the opportunity to hear from three keynote speakers on social justice, economic factors and the environment. Keynote speakers included: Senator Marilou McPhedran, a human rights lawyer, professor and activist, appointed as an independent senator in the Parliament of Canada by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in November 2016; Susan Lindsay, a graduate of the University of Manitoba and Climate Change educator; and Sam Anthony and Tristan Schneider, founders of Twin River Travel, a local company that provides accessible, sustainable wilderness experiences.

Workshop selections ranged food equity to building solar heaters out of recycled materials.

“Students are learning about everyday ways to include sustainability into their lives,” Francesca added. “What I think is most important is that we’re learning what do with our future. As children we often think we can’t do something because we’re limited by our age and the fact that other people have authority over us. But in truth, we should initiate these kinds of movements and get started, so we can empower the students who are younger than us as well.”

WSD ESD Consultant Chantelle Cotton said the event was sowing the seeds of major sustainability projects in schools this fall: “This is the melting pot of ideas and planning for fall projects, whether they’re for the environment, human rights or the economy.”

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Kelvin High School student Pearson Montgomery attended a workshop that focused on civic planning and the importance of sustainable transportation options. Pearson noted that the redevelopment of Route 90 in Winnipeg should included sustainable options such as arteries for cyclists.

He added that the conference was worthwhile for students: “We’re learning about what we can do as citizens to take action on the bigger issues.”

For more information, please visit the conference webpage here.



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