As a community organizer, there are events you put on that go alright, those that go pretty well, and those that are basically perfect. The For Our Future: Youth Climate Conference on Saturday, October 22nd by the 350 Colorado Youth Action Committee (YAC) was that event.

What makes it even more special is that this was their first time putting on this event. From an outsider’s perspective it probably looked like the fourth or fifth time it had happened! YAC hosted the climate conference to empower students and young people alike to take action. Too often are youth faced with the despair of the climate crisis and the unhelpful offering from adults – “Oh your generation will fix this!” What kind of pressure is that for someone who doesn’t even know what they are going to do after high school yet?

The youth-led event also spotlighted local community organizations and resources to get further involved, music, a free lunch for attendees (thanks SubCulture!) and a safe and inclusive space where youth shared their stories and experiences with both climate anxiety and empowerment during an open mic. 

Part of what made the day so special was that open mic portion at the end of the day. There were youth that had never spoken in front of more than a room full of people, and they found the courage to share in a hall of over 45 people!

For someone like Madeline Pierce, who joined YAC in October 2021, it was a pleasant surprise. “I initially was a little worried about turnout because after Covid it has been hard keeping people engaged and recruiting for activism, but there were so many enthusiastic and passionate youth there that it brought me hope for the future of the climate movement.” Madeline has been serving as the YAC Outreach Chair since this summer, and might I add, has been crushing it.

“I thought it was great getting to work with the Youth Action Committee on putting together the conference because all of us come from different ways of viewing the climate crisis in relation to ourselves and our experiences,” says Madeline. “So having that diversity of perspectives on a committee made the conference very open to students and young activists all over the state very plausible.”

There were also others leaders present at the conference wearing multiple hats as advocates, volunteers, and representatives of other organizations they work with.

“Every single voice and presence at the youth conference brought a passionate, different perspective about the climate crisis,” says Katessia Robertson, Board of Directors for 350 Colorado, “I learned so much from people my age and younger, and was amazed at the abundance of collective knowledge and interests we shared. I am so excited to advocate for and build a brighter, regenerative future with this generation!”

“I hope in the future that YAC can work to make events like that again,” says Madeline. “I’m sure it provided motivation for new activists to get involved, and even though I am experienced, it brough me more motivation. At in-person events like that you can really feel the passion for justice!”

The day would not have been complete without the panel of six speakers (5 youth and 1 adult) and the incredible emcee Lily-Ann Smith, YAC Social Media Manager. Lily was sincere, funny, and extremely cut out for the important role of introducing speakers and wrapping the day – she’s a natural leader! Mental health, burnout prevention, personal responsibility, journey to activism, and community building were among the topics covered.

One of the attendees, Jayna, wrote a review on four of the six speakers she got to listen to (a soccer tournament beckoned!). 

By Jayna McCaffree, middle school student in Jefferson County

As many of you know, there was a climate conference on the 22nd of October. It was an amazing event and the Youth Action Committee (YAC) did very well putting it together. For those of you who were unable to attend, there were many speakers who discussed their journeys and shared their stories. I will be talking about the first four speakers from the conference. 

Meet Phoebe Dominguez, the 14 year-old wonder who helped start the YAC. Phoebe has lived in Colorado all her life and enjoys playing volleyball, the cello, and video games. Though she has been a member of 350 for two years, that doesn’t mean she didn’t start small. In fact, she started with a sign and hope. Phoebe would stand on the capitol steps clutching a sign she hoped would save the environment (or at least make an impact) while withstanding the cheeky remarks of politicians, the people that Phoebe said “were supposed to represent me.” Eventually, she discovered 350 Colorado but still didn’t feel like younger people were getting enough of a voice. With the help of a few of her peers, Phoebe founded the YAC and things were going great until tons and tons of responsibility and pressure piled up. Phoebe had to get everything sorted out, but with a little help, the YAC started to thrive again and is still flourishing. 

Next up was Mason Smith, a 23-year-old who isn’t just focused on the climate crisis, but also on the mental health crisis that is being affected BY climate change. While the subject may be confusing at first, Mason’s talk helped sort out the issue. Not only is climate change a big problem, but it is a scary one too. Mason dove into the mental health research she had conducted, leading her to an observation. Many younger people felt pressured or obligated to fix the climate issue, a problem they didn’t cause but have to solve. Of course this is not only stressful to many people, but also depressing. Mason remarked that social media wasn’t helping this either as many videos of catastrophic events are floating around the internet, piling on even more stress. Her conclusion was to just slow down. Take a break if the climate crisis becomes too big, and talk about it.  And not just with the people in 350, but with people whose voices may not be heard. Talk about it with the people whose voices need to be heard. With that moving speech, Mason stepped from the podium and the next speaker stepped up.

Next was Emma Weber who is a sophomore in high school. She loves running, jellyfish, and hanging with her sister, but that’s not all. Emma is also an activist who started protesting for climate justice in middle school. She knew something was off, and she didn’t know why she didn’t worry about the same stuff her friends did. Emma wanted to take a stand after years of hearing about the climate crisis, so she and her sister started holding up signs, and started taking Fridays off of school to hold signs on a street corner. This passion followed her up to high school, where she now leads an environmental club. Emma has been a part of 350 Colorado for 19 months, but she has been bringing attention to the climate crisis for years.

The last of the four (but certainly not the least!) was Jolie Brawner. Jolie has a lot on her plate, whether it be the activities she loves (think outdoors) or being the Regenerative Recovery Coalition Director. When it was Jolie’s turn to speak, she started with a smile and a greeting and then immediately started listing how she helps 350 in the many ways that she does. Jolie explained that it is her job to find not only sustainability for the environment, but regeneration. In other words, she tries to leave things better than when she found it. Jolie also takes action by amplifying the voices of people in communities who often don’t get heard from. She also writes to the state government, updating them on actions she wants to take and actions that should be taken. In other words, Jolie is a high achiever, pressing for changes to happen yesterday.

Note: the final two speakers were university students and activists Nicole Venner and Jeeva Senthilnathan.

Thank you Jayna, and thank you to everyone for making this event so incredible and memorable! If you’d like to keep up with YAC and support their future events and actions give them a follow on Instagram, or visit their page on our website.

If you are 24 and younger and are looking to join this activated group of young climate activists email