The leaders of today’s youth environmental movement are building a long-lasting infrastructure and are coordinating to make a large-scale, enduring change. In order to accomplish this change, we need more youth leaders, which is why a major part of the NJ Student Sustainability Coalition (NJSSC) is leadership building. To cultivate more youth leaders, NJSSC has enacted a Student Reps program. This project allows students to build upon pre-existing skills, learn and cultivate new skills, and receive mentorship from more experienced student peers for the purpose of creating a difference in their own communities and campuses.
Furthermore, as we get more people involved in our Student Reps program, we aim to push change beyond the local level. Through training and advising, we are creating a network of student leaders who are collaborating to build more youth power to push forward environmental change on the state level.
Our most recent cycle of the NJSSC Student Reps program began in July of 2020. This program takes place during the summer, and through this program, students were expected to undergo a training program before the fall semester had begun, create, plan and implement an environmental event in their school or community, promote actions that support current NJSSC campaigns, and participate in NJSSC communications which had included monthly calls with other Student Reps across the state, mentorship calls with NJSSC leadership team members as needed, and NJSSC Slack channel discussions.
There are four core trainings that Student Reps must participate in during the summer to make sure that they are completely prepared for their roles starting in Fall. The first is “How to Run a Meeting,” in which students learn the basics of how to structure, plan, and run effective and productive meetings. The second is “Recruitment,” in which students learn key ways to reach potential members and drive interest and engagement in a group. The third is “Developing a Pitch,” in which students learn to talk about their work in an effective, compelling way for different audiences. The fourth training is “Coordinating a Volunteer Event,” in which students learn how to organize, recruit for, and run an event for their own school or community. NJSSC also offers many additional trainings to help further leadership development.
Asmita Adya, an NJSSC leader, has gone through the Student Reps program and has successfully utilized the experience in her own ventures, “I have always been passionate about fashion, and I am focusing on sustainable fashion through the student reps program. I have researched and compiled sustainable brands' shop links for various categories (dresses, bathing suits, shoes), and have shared my link tree. I plan to host a thrifting event in my school to promote sustainability in my community.”
Another NJSSC leader who has gone through the program, Tiffany Agkpo, says that “after the student reps program I’ve been much more organized in managing my goals as a diversity and inclusion leader of NJSSC. This organization and management has also transferred to my leadership goals within my school that also focus[es] on diversity and inclusion.” The NJSSC Student Reps program provides and empowers students with an unforgettable experience that will continue to help them not only with their environmental ventures but with future careers and leadership opportunities.