Goals of the 2012 Bioneers Youth Program
- To create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive space for every Bioneers conference youth scholarship recipient, and for all young people at the conference.
- To increase the accessibility of the conference for young people, with priority placed on low-income youth of color.
- To foster learning, leadership development, alliance building, and networking among youth and young educators, equipping them with the skills necessary to bring actionable projects back to their communities.
- To provide youth leaders with the opportunity to build co-mentoring partnerships across generations through special conference events.
Stories and Quotes from 2012 Bioneers Conference Youth Scholars & Young Educators
“All of us came away feeling part of an important movement that is already moving! I personally came away feeling great hope for our future and world.” – Abby Bell, FoodWhat?! Program Manager
“The workshops empowered me to wake up and join the movement now instead of later in my life. It’s the youth of today who can solve the problems that the generation before us created. The knowledge I have gained from Bioneers will truly help in my career.” – Victoria Pozos, FoodWhat?! Youth Scholar
“Bioneers is doing such a great job of welcoming our younger activists, and the scholarships make all that so possible. What a great group of teens and youth were there! The teens I brought were so jazzed with their day there. They were buzzing with what they learned and were enlightened to so many issues and projects – so inspired. We will be working with what they learned for a long time!” – Margaret Howe, Ceres Community Project
“Thank you for affording us the opportunity to go. Laney is a College where not many could scrape up the dollars for normal admission. Bioneers was a major player in my re-immersion in ecology. I had found myself often feeling apathetic about the many plights and issues facing our world. It was a defense to caring too much and feeling helpless. To see all the warriors of light standing on that stage and buzzing around I felt confident for the first time in a while that change will come to this world for the positive. This was a big milestone for me. I cannot wait for the day where the word Bioneers is included in the conversations of a majority of American and world homes.” – Daniel Bennet, Laney College Youth Scholar
“The conference plenaries were amazing and we had a successful Trashion show with a very receptive audience. Our students look forward to Bioneers every year and we hope to continue this beautiful relationship we have with the organization. Special thanks to Andrew and Bioneers for helping us make Bioneers a reality every year!” – Missy Mohler, Truckee High School Envirolution Club
“I love the involvement and support you all are creating for us at Bioneers. Bioneers has served and will continue to serve as a key piece of curriculum at the Jefferson County Open School. Our kids always have a blast and learn so much from this wonderful experience. Thank you Bioneers!” -Lauren Andrew, Jefferson County Open School
“I have now attended two Bioneers conferences. Bioneers is such an amazing experience and I am so thankful for the opportunity the Envirolution Club had. I cannot wait to return next year!” –Becca Berelson, Youth Scholar
I. 2012 Bioneers Conference Overview
Over the past decade, Bioneers has shown an increasing dedication to hosting young people from a diverse range of backgrounds. The 2012 Youth Program was no exception to this trend. The Youth Unity Tent continues to serve as a hub for racial and ethnic diversity at Bioneers and the Youth Scholarship Program allows young people from low-income communities to attend the conference and benefit from exposure to ideas focused on bettering the world in which we all live. If our society is to become more sustainable as a whole, communities disproportionately affected by environmental and institutional injustice must be at the table. The idea that the environmental movement is exclusive and most accessible by a privileged class is being directly challenged by initiatives like the Bioneers Youth Scholarship Program. Continuing to increase the accessibility of the Bioneers conference for youth of color is a priority through which meaningful mission delivery can, and will, continue to be achieved.
The opportunities presented to young people at Bioneers are incredibly valuable and often reported on as dramatically life-changing. This year’s plenaries and eight youth specific programs exceeded many of our young attendees’ expectations and the Youth Tent proved to be a comfortable hub not only for everyone who came on scholarship but also for other students and young people at the conference.
It is our hope that young people gain not only from the educational material presented at Bioneers, but also from the countless opportunities to further their education and careers. This report will review how we achieved these goals by examining the role of our partnerships, the youth scholarship program, and youth unity programming highlights.
Bioneers again partnered with a number of familiar organizations in creating a fun and enriching program to inform and empower young people.
Earth Island Institute: We maintained a strong relationship with the Earth Island Institute this year, again featuring the Brower Youth Award Winners in their own afternoon panel and collaborating deeply to produce the first year of our Community of Mentors Initiative.
Gaia University: Gaia University was instrumental in producing and facilitating the World Café three-part series this year, focused on deepening intergenerational collaboration.
Synergia Learning Ventures: Bioneers again coordinated with Synergia Learning Ventures to have their student film team select components of the Bioneers Youth experience, including the Just Us for Food Justice pre-conference workshop, and conduct interviews with the Brower Youth Award Winners as well as high-level presenters. Their mobile classroom continues to provide a dynamic space for young people to take leadership in capturing and producing media about the Bioneers experience and to engage with esteemed faculty.
Rooted in Community: Bioneers partnered with them during the Just Us for Food Justice event again this year to produce a full day, action-oriented workshop that empowered participants with tools, resources and connections to take home and apply in their own communities.
Envirolution: Their students have been coming to Bioneers for years and deeply appreciate the connections they make at the conference. Conference attendees often report great levels of inspiration at seeing these students’ creativity and commitment in action on stage.
The Youth Scholarship Program is the central opportunity through which low-income young people are able to attend the Bioneers conference. Youth Scholarship recipients were awarded full financial assistance on conference registration costs, lunch and snacks all three days, and dinner on Thursday and Saturday. The level of gratitude and deep appreciation we received from this year’s Youth Scholars only further reinforced the value and importance of the mission of this program. The 2012 conference saw the return of many groups and individuals who attended in 2011, as well as many new faces. We received more positive feedback this year than ever before from adults about the extent to which seeing such a large number of energized, inspired young people at the conference moved them and gave them hope.
Increasing the financial accessibility of attending the Bioneers conference for young people has long been a priority of our organization; and we are pleased to report that this year was one of our most successful yet in achieving this goal. In addition to the continued distribution of Youth Scholarships, new innovations from our Education for Action program enabled an additional 140 tickets to be distributed to students at significantly discounted rates (between $30 and $50/day). Despite a slight decrease in full Youth Scholarships awarded this year compared to last, we were successful in distributing 350 free and low-cost tickets to youth, students and young educators – more than any previous year in the organization’s history.
Scholarships: Major Organizational Partners
This year, Bioneers invited a wide range of community organizations and individuals from all over the country both to contribute to Youth Unity programming and to organize groups of young people to attend. We are pleased to report that out of 30 major organizations who brought Youth Scholars, an estimated 19 work specifically within low-income communities of color. Below you will find a list of the major organizations that participated in this year’s Youth Program and whose members attended on scholarship. The organizations italicized represent those that work directly with at-risk youth and communities.
Organizational Partners: Abraham Lincoln High School, Besant Hill School, Butte Community College, Ceres Community Project , Conversations with the Earth (Indigenous Org), Costanoan Indian Research , Education for Sustainable Living Program, Emerging Indigenous Leaders Institute, Farm Fresh Choice , FoodWhat?!, Futures Elementary School, Generation Waking Up, Girls Inc., Green City Force, Groundwork Sand Diego, I-SEEED, Jefferson County Open School, Laney College Eco Art Matters Class, Native American and Indigenous Student Assembly, Native Schools, Rethink Diné Power, Rooted in Community, SV Tribal , Sustainable Generation , Singing Tree Mural Project, Synergia Learning Ventures, Truckee High School Envirolution, Urban Tilth, YES!, Young Women’s Leadership , Youth Leadership Institute
II. Bioneers Conference Program Highlights
Feedback and evaluations from people who participated in this year’s Youth Programming suggest that many returning attendees felt it was the best they have ever experienced. The following section provides an overview of this year’s highlights, as well as insights into specific programmatic details.
Youth Unity Orientation
Orientation: Thursday 4:30-7:30
We once again held a Thursday orientation for young people as a pre-conference introduction to the weekend. The young people who did attend (most of them from out of state) found this three-hour ceremony both informative and inspirational. The orientation began with a meet-and-greet, followed by a short ice-breaker activity to build relationships and get to know each other. Staff then gave an opening address focused on setting intentions for the weekend, establishing an introduction to Bioneers, and providing valuable logistical information.
We then had a dinner followed by a council led by Shay Sloan and Tod Cossairt. The council process was extremely valuable in the sense that young people had the opportunity to express their expectations of the conference and open themselves to group dialogue. The council was a wonderful element of the orientation and set the tone for the entire weekend.
Youth Features on the Main Stage
Nikki Henderson: Full Plenary on Friday morning – “Flavas of a Whole Community: Ingredients for Food Access in Historically Under-Invested Communities”
Nikki Henderson, a nationally recognized young leader of the food justice movement, set the stage on Friday morning with a full-length plenary exploring how to support the development of healthy communities and combat childhood malnutrition, diet-related diseases, and food injustice. She illustrated how the creation of “good food” systems can heal historical traumas around race, class, power, and privilege in a spirit of collaboration and “ally-ship.” Nikki is the Executive Director of the groundbreaking Oakland-based People's Grocery, and left the auditorium in a rousing standing ovation.
Rhiannon Tomtishen and Madison Vorva: Youth Plenary on Friday morning
These 2011 Brower Youth Award winners, two high school best friends, described the inspiration behind, and growing success of, their campaign with the Rainforest Action Network to safeguard habitat for Orangutans and preserve rainforests by ending use of palm oil by the Girl Scouts and others.
De’Anthony Jones: Youth Plenary on Saturday morning
This dynamic youth leader delivered a rousingly inspired youth plenary called “Social Change and Global Climate Change to the Forefront of Education” – which is also the primary focus of his leadership and work. De’Anthony, a former President of the Environmental Students Organization at Sacramento State, currently works with the Young Democrats of California Black Caucus as its Northstate Regional Director and is driven by a passion to create a new youth culture centered around environmental stewardship.
Rachel Barge: Youth Plenary on Sunday morning
Another past Brower Youth Award winner, Rachel Barge painted both a practical and visionary picture of the opportunities in employing enterprise-based solutions to solve the world’s most pressing environmental problems. Rachel is a now a young social entrepreneur working with Greenstart, which nurtures young people to break into the green technology space. She previously worked as a highly effective and renowned campus sustainability activist while at UC Berkeley.
Destiny Arts Youth Center: Performance on Sunday morning
The Destiny Arts Youth Performing Company, a dynamic group of young people, primarily from Oakland, California, returned this year to the Bioneers conference main stage. They premiered an original dance, music and spoken-word series.
Generation Waking Up: Friday 2:30-4:00
This global campaign, which seeks to inspire young people to bring about a thriving, just, and sustainable world, was the first workshop in the Youth Program. This was the third year we worked with Generation Waking Up and it was a resounding success. Joshua Gorman and Valarie Love led a wonderful, multimedia-driven workshop on how young people can engage their local communities in a productive manner. The design and content sought to provide a focused, action-oriented experience that spoke directly to young people, and was effective in doing so for all those who participated.
Young Bioneers Speak, Intergenerational Youth Council: Friday 4:30-6:00
Though this council started out small, those who participated the entire time reportedly found this open space to be very valuable. The purpose of this council was to create a safe and brave space for young people to express their feelings, concerns, hopes, and aspirations in a meaningful way with other individuals. Many people described the council experience as both cathartic and healing. Engaging in direct, open communication with a group of peers and elders is notably powerful. The council was led by Kate Lipkis, a certified council trainer, and Casey McCarroll, the founder of Launch.
From Eco-Apartheid to Eco-Imagination: Saturday 2:30-4:00
Dr. Antwi Akom’s presentation on “Eco-Apartheid” brought a large crowd to the Youth Tent. This moving presentation outlined Dr. Akom’s theories around the disproportionate levels of pollutants, toxins, and unhealthy food present in low-income communities of color. A number of people said they thought his presentation should have been on the main stage. Bringing up issues of class, race, and justice as they relate to the realms of ecological health and sustainability is something Bioneers should continue to engage with and expand upon. This was perhaps one of the most radical presentations that occurred in the Youth Unity Tent as well as one of the most well received.
The session was built around a highly interactive and dynamic model, in which everyone in the Youth Tent was asked to get into a group and create a “food map” of their local community, identifying both places like liquor stores and gas stations as well as good community resources.
Poetry Slam: Saturday 4:30-6:00
The Poetry Slam, led by Ariel Lucky, was one of the most fun and innovative avenues of expression that occurred in the Youth Tent. Several poets shared their work an crowd of nearly 200.
One notable poet who signed up at the conference was Lyla, a young Native American woman whose personal story was beautifully reflected in her poetry. She touched the entire crowd with stories about her community, the importance of her relatives, her anger at injustice, and her hope for change.
Another beautiful moment occurred when it was announced that the two final poets tied and would be splitting the grand prize of $80. A woman stood up in the crowd and spontaneously started raising money from people in the tent to give the poets a larger reward. Upon seeing this, the two final poets announced they were splitting the entire prize with the rest of the poets.
Meet and Greet the Brower Youth Award Winners: Sunday 2:30-4:00
The Brower Youth Award Winners provide an invaluable source of inspiration for young people attending the conference. This recurring feature of the annual BYA winners was a well-attended and highly engaging session. All of the award winners have been working on projects aimed at bettering the communities in which they live, and promoting sustainability in diverse ways. From K-5 eco-education programs to water toxicity measuring projects, the initiatives these young people have piloted serve as models for community-driven action.
Seeing youth leaders have a strong presence at Bioneers is something many adults reported as being a source of great hope and inspiration for them. A number wished they had seen even more young leaders featured from the main stage. A commitment to increasing their presence is something upon which Bioneers will continue to build annually.
Help Wanted, Green Jobs: Sunday 4:30-6:00
This was the final workshop in a very inspirational Youth Program. The session explored the challenges of becoming a “green entrepreneur” and also the benefits of choosing such a life path. Markese Bryant and De’Anthony Jones did a fantastic job explaining their work and answering the questions posed by several young people.
Associated and Ongoing Programming
Community of Mentors
The 2012 conference was the first year Bioneers launched our new Community of Mentors program, which seeks to foster intergenerational collaboration and learning within small, intimate settings. The goal of this program is to connect young, emerging change-makers with seasoned activists in order to receive guidance and mentorship on how to apply their passions towards change. In our pilot year, this was accomplished through two unique formats: Office Hours Sessions – one mentor with up to 10 mentees to seek immediate, one-time guidance; and Youth Leader Mentoring Sessions – for the Brower Youth Award Winners and Bioneers Youth Fellows, who met in smaller groups to begin ongoing mentorship relationships that will evolve though bi-monthly conference calls over the following 12 months. We partnered with leaders from a wide variety of organizations, including Carolyn Raffensperger, Executive Director of the Science and Environmental Health Network; Elisa Parker, Co-founder and President of See Jane Do; and Trathen Heckman, Founder of Daily Acts. Many of the young people who participated in these sessions reported in their written evaluations that it was one of the most special, meaningful aspects of their conference experience.
Just Us for Food Justice JU4FJ
The youth who participated in the 8th annual JU4FJ pre-conference intensive are activists who come from areas traditionally lacking in access to healthy food. The intention of this day is to bring together the collective knowledge of each young activist in an effort to identify the problems facing the food system and potential community and institutional solutions. The 2012 Just Us for Food Justice program brought together 35 young people and elders from five different organizations, including FoodWhat?!, Farm Fresh Choice, Urban Tilth, Synergia Learning Ventures, and Bioneers. Topics discussed included the Youth Food Bill of Rights, direct community action, and how preparing food together can create personal connection.
This unique program seeks to foster a culture of conscious change motivated by food, justice and tradition. The participants in this program all had a great time and shared very personal and moving feedback, some highlights of which are included at the beginning of this report.
“Youth Trashion Show” – A youth performance of fashion made out of “trash”
Truckee High School’s Envirolution Club has maintained a tradition of putting on a performance during Saturday’s lunch entitled the “Youth Trashion Show”. This performance is meant to both entertain and raise awareness around the waste our society generates. This fun and insightful presentation also presents simple solutions to reduce the waste the students have turned into “trashion”.
Bioneers continued its tradition of partnering with Gaia University engaging in three separate world cafés led by Dave Shaw and associates. The cafés proved to be a vibrant intergenerational hub of dialogue around issues related to sustainability, social justice, and personal growth.
Interactive Mural Project
During all three days of the conference, William Worden facilitated an interactive mural process. Throughout the weekend, youth shared artistic expressions of their Bioneers experience while connecting with other youth from across the country. Having this artistic component, a space where youth are able to freely direct their creative energy, is an essential component of the Youth Program and is valued immensely by youth and elders.
Singing Tree Mural Project
Bioneers began a new relationship this year with two Bay Area non-profits, The Ambassadors of Hope and Opportunity and Unity through Creativity. These non-profits work to provide assistance and inspiration to Marin’s homeless youth population by providing a safe environment and using the power of art to motivate and empower. This was the first year that these non-profits sent young people to the Bioneers conference. The youth created four beautiful murals, entitled Seasons of Hope, and gave a brief explanation of their project before every program in the Youth Tent.
III. Conference Logistics
Given budgetary limitations, Bioneers is not able to provide lodging for youth. However, China Camp State Park, located just 15 minutes away from the Marin Fairgrounds, proved to be an inexpensive and fun option for groups looking to save money.
This year, for the first time, “Cosmic” Joe Jordan led a star walk at China Camp State Park for the Youth Scholars camping there. For 90 minutes, he gave an in-depth and fun explanation of the stars. This proved to be a special and much-loved treat for those who participated.
The Youth Program was once again blessed to receive significant food donations to feed our hungry Youth Scholars. Given the mission of Bioneers, and the great emphasis we place on food justice, it is critical that we serve healthy, sustainable food. Donors included Sol Food, Amici’s Pizza and Rainbow Grocery.
Bioneers sincerely thanks the many generous donors who made the Youth Program possible in 2012. If you'd like to make a donation to support the 2013 Bioneers Conference Scholarship Fund, please donate here.
For a PDF version of this report, please contact the Bioneers Development Department, giving (at) bioneers.org or call 1-877-BIONEER x104.
All photos within this report, unless otherwise specified, were taken by Jan Mangan. This 2012 Bioneers Youth Program Outcomes report was prepared by Andrew Whitman, Youth Program Coordinator (July-December 2012).