Program Update: Youth for the Environment and Sustainability (YES) Conference 2015

By Carina Lieu of Alta Planning + Design

The second Youth for the Environment and Sustainability (YES) Conference was a great success! Over 125 middle and high school students, parents, teachers, and program providers shared their experienced of making positive environmental change by changing transportation in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Master of Ceremonies Jasper Starfire Thelin broke the ice with fun games. Metropolitan Transportation (MTC) Chair, Amy Rein Worth, congratulated students on the important work that they are doing. Students shouted the names of their newly-formed teams, then listened as Nick Laskowski, Co-Founder of the San Jose Bike Party, shared the importance of making volunteering a fun way to meet new friends.

Highlights from the sessions included students from the Marin School of Environmental Leadership talking about “The Amazing Transit Race” their scavenger hunt modeled after the Amazing Race TV show. Students involved in the Sonoma County Youth Advisory Board shared how they developed their leadership skills while promoting walking and bicycling to their classmates. Causa Justa: Just Cause staff shared their “Game of Life: Public Transit, Bikes and Cars,” which teaches the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on low-income communities of color and equity issues related to transportation access. The Alameda County Safe Routes to Schools Youth Task Force presented their ongoing efforts with a hand-rendering of a trail near the school and a music video promoting the school’s “Cocoa for Carpools” program. Bike East Bay and MTC co-presented “#YOUTHACTION: A Community Organizing Toolkit for Young Activists,” teaching participants about Plan Bay Area and having students role-play conversations about important issues to get them involved in their community planning processes.


Over lunch, students made bike blender smoothies, posed for photos, and learned basic bike maintenance from the Bay Area BikeMobile. At the BayMobile, a mobile bay lab from the Aquarium of the Bay, students experimented with the science of climate change. Animal ambassadors, such as starfish and sea cucumbers, illustrated the harmful impacts carbon emissions have had on California’s coastal biodiversity.

The conference concluded with a motivating speech from keynote speaker, Serah Almeyda, from Social Advocates for Youth (SAY), followed by raffle prize drawings, and a closing statement. The conference was a success and a great inspiration for advocates of all ages!