Bioneers 2015 Youth Leadership Program: Moving the Movement!

Way back when a handful of youth convened under a tree at Bioneers in 2000, at the behest of Julia Butterfly-Hill, we knew an essential piece of the puzzle had just been placed. This program was born to bring youth into the fold of Bioneers in a way that would inspire, inform and engage them, generating ambassadors for the world the world wants. Ever since, these inspired young people have set about translating the Bioneers messages of real, solutions-based hope into the language of our emerging generations of leadership.

That handful of young people turned into almost 500 youth at Bioneers 2015, thanks to your awesome support! The Bioneers Youth Leadership Program (YLP) today is making a deep and powerful impact for thousands of young leaders – and for our collective future.

[quote style=”default”]I was grateful this year to be part of the Youth Leadership program, where I was surrounded by motivated young adults to change the world. The dire state of our planet is often scary and overwhelming to think about, but the capacity of humans and our ability to collaborate on solutions keeps me hopeful. That is why I love Bioneers.

– Lily Urmann, student, University of California Santa Cruz[/quote]

Bioneers 2015 Youth Leadership Highlights

This year we hit high water marks across the board – and we had our highest youth attendance ever!

  • About 20% of attendees at Bioneers 2015 were youth, nearly 500
  • Bioneers awarded a total of 376 scholarships, a 37% increase in the last two years
  • We extended our invitation to all youth called to come, and 115 youth attended Bioneers with their own support, bringing overall youth attendance to 491!
  • Youth were supported by a total of 26 organizations from different cultural backgrounds and economic spectrums – vibrancy and diversity.
  • Approximately 42% of our YLP participants identified as youth of color.
  • Over 70 Indigenous youth attended the Youth Leadership Program on scholarships – a 20% jump – representing 20 tribes. Twenty-five were from the Navajo nation!
  • 2,500 meals were served throughout the weekend. BIG THANKS TO OUR SPONSORS!

Groups attended from California, New York, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Washington, Arkansas and Illinois. The diversity, vibrancy and energy were awe-inspiring.

Every single youth participant had open access to all three days of powerful keynote talks on the main stage, as well as an impactful offering of activities:

  • Community of Mentors
  • Weaving Earth Mentoring Circles
  • Just Us For Food Justice (JU4FJ) Pre-conference Intensive
  • Interactive Living Mandala Art Project
  • LGBTQ Talking Circle
  • Brower Youth Award Winners
  • Generation RYSE organizing meeting
  • Youth of Color Caucus
  • The Trashion Show
  • The Power of Our Food Choices
  • Poetry Slam
  • Transforming Inspiration Into Action
  • Open Mic
  • The Singing Tree Art Project
  • Wiser Together Café
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Strategic Energy Innovation (SEI) Internship Program

And more! And youth participation and engagement were consistent throughout. These young people all took this seriously – as an opportunity to learn, grow and create relationships that will help them on their way on the road ahead. And when you have mentors like Luisah Teish, you’ve got good backing!

Luisah Teish Youth Mentor Bioneers 2015 © Republic of Light 650px
Luisah Teish, an elder in the Ifa/Orisha tradition and renowned speaker and artist-activist, met with youth for an intergenerational mentoring session at the 2015 Bioneers National Conference. Photo by Republic of Light.

What Bioneers Youth Say

Our overall success came through in the responses of the youth themselves:

[quote style=”default”]This year the conference had a very strong presence of Indigenous speakers, panelists, youth scholars, and attendees and I am both honored and proud to say that I was one of the Youth Scholars. For me this opportunity has been invaluable. Growing up I experienced conflicting and confusing feelings about my culture. There were times where I struggled to feel proud about my Indigenous roots, so I hid it. And there were also times when I felt guilty and ashamed that I wasn’t “Native” or traditional enough because I attended non-native schools and eventually left the community for college. I still work with this internalized oppression, however, there are moments when someone or something frees me from that, and that’s what happened at Bioneers.

Jade Begay (Tesuque Pueblo and Dinétah), Sustainability and Justice Communications Fellow at Resource Media[/quote] [quote style=”default”]Bioneers made me come alive in such a way that I belonged deeply to myself and to this world. I was reminded that I belong to this small spinning water planet and that my work is to continue to serve this Great Turning in any way I can. That we all – every living thing – have work to do to feed and to feel that belonging. Thank you for reminding me of this.

– Justine Epstein, youth scholarship recipient[/quote] [quote style=”default”]Through all of my perspective changes and my brain being stuffed full of knowledge the thing that made Bioneers truly special for me was the absolute unity of everyone. Although we came together from all around the world, we all sought in one form or another to solve the major problems that are harming our world. This is so unique to gather several thousand people that all have the same desire to help, that is all we need to solve the problems of our world.

– Quincy Meisman, student, Alpine Achievers Initiative[/quote] [quote style=”default”]The Bioneers conference for me reinforced the idea that we are in it together and we need to stop dividing ourselves. Collaboration, innovation, and integration are essential elements needed to create change within our society. It was definitely a eye opening experience to me and one that I will not forget anytime soon.

– Miguel Garcia, student, A.L.M.A.S.[/quote] [quote style=”default”]Bioneers is not only an event. It is not only a group of people, or a media outlet. To me, Bioneers symbolizes a collective consciousness, with a conscience that’s caught up with us. There are no spectators here. I’m figuring out how I fit in, and what a glorious journey it is.

– Cal Huss, youth scholarship recipient[/quote] [quote style=”default”]If there is one lesson that I have learned from Bioneers, that sticks out above the rest, it is that bringing people together is one of the most powerful things that we can do.

– Lily Leveque-Eichorn,Youth Program Manager, Ceres Community Project[/quote]

Create and Support Youth Engagement at this Critical Time

As Bioneers so vividly shows, one person can make a real difference, and today’s leadership arises in and from community. Youth know this and today’s young people are deeply enmeshed in community. The Bioneers Youth Scholars are on their paths – or on their way to finding them – and they’re determined to bring about the world the world wants.

And we all know that they can’t do it alone-your partnership is essential to keep bringing youth to the movement and illuminating some of the pathways. Bioneers is a way station for them where they can find new maps, reset their compasses and form new relationships that will strengthen and support them on their journeys. Your support is vitally important.

You can contribute once a month and you can make a huge difference. Give as little as the price of a weekday lunch – $10. That becomes $120 a year and that’s almost a quarter of a youth scholarship! If you can commit to $50 a month, you’ll fund a full Youth Scholarship!

If you prefer, you can also make a one-time gift. It will make a difference that really makes a difference. And that’s perhaps most true when you consider that you are investing in these bright young advocates for our future.

The real power here lies in your giving. Investing in Youth Leadership offers such uniquely high value. And truthfully, in our efforts to shape a brighter future for all of us, we rely on you to make this powerful program and these profound opportunities real. We could not do this without you. And with you – together – we all benefit.

With your support, we can continue to provide a one-of-a-kind experience, network and way station for tomorrow’s leaders, the compassionate and caring youth, to connect, collaborate and create.

Thank you!

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