Pooja Tilvawala founded and now directs Youth Climate Collaborative (YCC). Its mission is to make it easier for youth to get involved and remain involved in climate and sustainable development work and to foster meaningful collaboration among youth leaders. Her Merlyn Climate Grant helps fund the planning, testing, and launch of Climate Courage Workshops. The workshops assist leaders 13 to 30 in learning how to manage their feelings caused by climate change, create a self-care plan, and build their emotional resilience. Each workshop consists of two sessions across two weeks, about two hours each week, and serves up to 15 young leaders in each session.
Adrian Huq (holding the microphone in photo) since high school has led successful student climate initiatives in New Haven, Connecticut. A leader and founding member of the New Haven Climate Movement Youth Action Team, Adrian helped bring about in 2019 the passage of the New Haven Climate Emergency Resolution, only the second such legislation in Connecticut and 29th in the nation. A Merlyn Climate Grant in 2022 supports Adrian's recruitment, training and mentoring of four new climate education interns attending New Haven area high schools. The interns will collaborate with teachers to create and distribute compelling climate materials, organize webinars, produce educational videos and graphics, and inspire teachers and area leaders to step up their involvement in the climate challenge. The effort, under the Climate Health Education Project (CHEP), is approaching its fifth successful year and is a project of the New Haven/Leon Sister City Project.
Grace Booth asks this question about the climate challenge at our door: “How do we get more people to care?” Her answer is to create a theater performance (working title: Agatha Apple, coming late 2022) that brings the massive and conceptual into a context that feels incredibly immediate. Her one-woman theater experience will use human characterization of Earth to create empathy for the plight of the planet. In several New England appearances funded by a Merlyn Climate Grant, audiences will have a “conversation” with Earth. Grace hopes to leverage her training in physical theater to create an Earth who is “expansive, irreverent, impatient, creative, prefers wine to tequila, has a penchant for cacti, has fallen in love exactly 5 times, loves poetry . . . and is dying.”
Working with fellow Rochester, NY, high school students Liam Smith and Hridesh Singh (pictured), Celia co-launched New York Youth Climate Leaders, a fast-growing advocacy alliance of 80+ youth and student climate organizations. Her Merlyn Climate Grant paid for apps and software that allow alliance members far afield to collaborate remotely and plan actions together.
Mycala designed a newsletter and networking capacity to connect and bond youth climate groups across Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.
Rachael's grant allowed her to accept the challenge of becoming the first Executive Community Director of a Sunrise hub in Providence, RI. Sunrise educates Rhode Island's elected and business leaders about fossil fuel's damaging impact on young people's future health and survival.
Georgia created the podcast Inherited to raise and sustain morale among climate activists. It features peer-to-peer interviews and highlights tools by and for young leaders on climate. She lives in New York.
Emma earned a second Merlyn Climate Grant to continue her breakthrough work in Rhode Island organizing and training new youth leaders in building and running climate and de-carbonization campaigns.
A middle school student in Western Massachusetts, Natalia recruited business and environmental organizations to launch a tree-planting project in her hometown. It has since entered its second year and seeded projects in area towns.
Violette attends Boston University. Her grant facilitated the demanding planning of a Youth Lobby Day in Maine and New Hampshire. It's helping build the political will there for legislative action on climate.
Molly created a campaign in her Massachusetts town to teach drivers about the impact of car idling on carbon emissions
Sarah launched a kelp farm in the shallow waters of Muscongus Bay, in Maine.
Emma is a recent graduate of Brown. She co-leads the Brown Sunrise Hub, training student and community volunteers in educating local business and government leaders about climate change and its impact on her generation.
Alex earned his Masters of Science in Engineering at Brown. He helped organize efforts to write climate legislation for Rhode Island. Since earning his grant, he has run for and won a seat on a city council in Rhode Island, making him one of the youngest council members in the city's history.
A Masters student in Biology, Maleha designed climate programing and studied the Bronx River with students from New York City public schools.
Brittany started a composting facility serving her area and greater Rhode Island.
Luke is fourteen years old. He created a local Rhode Island magazine encouraging intergenerational dialogue on our climate future.
Nicole organized and co-led two successful climate strikes in Rhode Island.
A student at Bentley University, in Waltham, MA, Reginald speaks in schools, afterschool programs, and youth groups throughout his Boston community on issues related to business, finance, and entrepreneurship. (His was one of the earliest Merlyn Grants, like those below, before the grant focus went exclusively to climate leadership.)
Born and raised in Dorchester, a Boston neighborhood, Ngoc-Tran Vu ("Tran") is a community organizer and multimedia artist. As a Vietnamese-American in Dorchester’s large Vietnamese community, she grew up fascinated by the long history of her family and the families around her.
Tran wanted to create a way to share that narrative with and for her community. She began working with local businesses, youth, and elders to develop a public art project in the heart of Dorchester. The massive mural, nearly three stories tall, has become a community focal piece. It tells the rich stories of the Vietnamese people and the people of Dorchester in a way that is honest, healing, and empowering.
“The steering committee was intergenerational, a group of residents both Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese, but I really wanted to engage with young people who could carry on the history and the narrative moving forward. It was important to me that it came locally. Dorchester is a working-class community, and the stories you hear about it in the media are often negative, but a lot of people don’t realize how much art and culture and vibrancy there is for people both inside and outside the community. There is a lot of talent and stories from people in this community,” says Tran of her work. “I think it’s both empowering and healing. The role of the artist is to create spaces that people can relate to, can share, but also feel empowered in.”
Tran received a grant to develop a website that will support the community mural project. She hopes the site will bring people from far afield to the mural and start more conversations -- the way it has with folks in her neighborhood. “The mural talks about the journey of the immigrant and refugee experience in a way that’s universal,” she says. “I want art to become a tool for engagement and for sharing our narratives.”
Trans says she learned through this project that collaboration is a key to positive, sustainable community activism.“You don’t always have to start something from scratch. A lot of times the best ideas come from collaboration. A community mural was not a brand new idea, but really figuring out why it was important and how it would connect to this community was valuable. People have stories that need to be told from their perspective.” For more on mural and its development, go to:https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/vietnamese-mural-students/
When Gabe Lamanuzzi moved to the Boston area, he sought out ways to get involved right away with his new community. Concerned most about alcohol and drug abuse prevention, he hoped to use his writing and education background to start making positive change. He decided the best way was to link up with an established local nonprofit and provide his skills to expand their reach. “I wanted to get involved with Improbable Players right away,” he says. “They caught my interest immediately because through friends and family members I’ve been affected by addiction, and I think it extends to every level of society. It can tear families apart, and addiction affects society as a whole.”
Gabe plans to use his grant to help the group develop a podcast, expanding its reach and accessibility. He believes that helping share their message widely will further raise awareness of issues related to alcohol and drug abuse and provide support for those who may love someone struggling with addiction. “The moment I realized I could really help was the first time I shared my story at a meeting [for loved ones of addicts],” Gabe explains. “I received overwhelming feedback on how it could help others overcome their own pain, loss, struggle. It’s not easy to share these stories, but it helps. We are at our best when we are connecting and sharing.”
Gabe hopes he can help broaden the dialogue around alcohol and drug abuse. “The ripple effect of an individual’s action in society can be profound,” says Gabe of his desire to be an agent for change in his community. “You have a responsibility to take action and not to stand idly by when there is injustice or pain.”