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December 14, 2017

Climate Justice Ambassadors in Salem

Saturday, the 18th of November, 2017, 34 students from Oregon participated in the first Plant-for-the-Planet Academy in Salem, Oregon! It was hosted and supported by 350 Salem OR and Salem Environmental Education. For this we especially thank Linda Wallmark, one of the leaders of 350 Salem, who acted in most ways as the program coordinator for this Academy.

This training grew out of the meeting of Linda and Pam Vergun, Plant-for-the-Planet U.S.’s then Acting Executive Director. We first met at the Oregon Marshallese Community’s Nuclear Legacy Summit at which Ambassadors Miko and Isaac Vergun were honored by the Community as Youth in Action. Linda was tabling at the event for 350 Salem, and so of course Pam went up to greet her. The next meeting happened to be Linda sitting in on the 350.org national conference call with local 350 chapter leaders about Plant-for-the-Planet with Pam, Sue Lenander, and Marco and Tim Deppe. Pam recognized Linda’s voice, and we followed up after the call.

This Academy was organized and moderated by Linda Wallmark with support from Jon Yoder, with assistance from Program Coordinators Pam Vergun and Catherine Beckett. Ambassadors Isaac, Dylan, Mirabel, and Amelia led the training, assisted by Ambassadors Rafi, Zohara and Ziva. Bill Rensmith led the parents’ meeting during the Academy. All were assisted by a host of great volunteers (16 adult volunteers in total), including one who was even willing to go pick up an Ambassador who appeared to not be coming because she lacked a ride. We are extremely grateful for the team Linda and Jon put together.

It was a great Academy. Thirty-four students aged 10 to 18 from one state and two cities (Salem and Portland in Oregon) represented eight schools as well as homeschool students: 1 K-12 supplemental learning environment for home school students (Zena Springs Farm School), 2 elementary schools (Grant Community School, Richmond Elementary School), 1 combined elementary and middle school (Heritage School), 4 middle schools (Crossler Middle School, Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School, Walker Middle School, Judson Middle School), and 3 high schools (Early College High School, Sprague High School, Douglas McKay High School). Some students traveled an hour each way by car to attend the Academy.

Students and parents were met by volunteers who took care of any missing registration information, as well as addressing several problems that arose due to the international registration page. They were greeted by the Ambassadors leading the Academy. Linda introduced Plant-for-the-Planet, and the four Ambassadors gave the presentation. This was followed by Dylan, who did a great job introducing Mayor Chuck Bennett. We really appreciated the mayor’s remarks and presence. He has the distinction of being the first Oregon mayor to attend one of our Academies.

Then, we took a break and enjoyed delicious snacks.

We played the World Game. Then, we turned to Rhetoric Practice and discussed what makes a speech effective and gave out the slides with the presenters notes so students could practice giving small parts of the talk. Linda, with some help from Pam, decided who would present which slides in the afternoon. Next we heard from Kathleen, who talked about the effects of climate change on her homeland in the Marshall Islands and in other Pacific Islands.

We then went to nearby Bush Park and worked together to plant 5 tall oak trees.

Afterwards, we came back inside and had a great lunch of pizza, apples, and energy bars and cookies from the morning. We talked about the importance of taking only the food we know we can eat and making sure that nothing is wasted—that we can save leftovers and compost all that is left or can’t be eaten, and recycle all that can be recycled.

Then, Pam helped some students to practice the presentation for the afternoon slideshow. Other students worked together on the World Café led by Ambassadors and moderated by Linda, to brainstorm how to get others involved.

The presentation began with a great presentation by the group who did the World Café. About 15 of the students presented the slideshow, many keeping to their resolution to presenting without notes. The presentation was attended by the families of the students and the volunteers, as well as our VIP, Stacey Jochimsen, Field Representative for U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. Stacey made her remarks and read the letter from Senator Merkley to our “Dear young climate champions…. It is your generation that will save our planet, and will make sure that we don’t leave our most vulnerable neighbors behind. Thank you for… fighting in the battle against climate disruption.”

Students received their appointments as Climate Justice Ambassadors, along with certificates, Tree by Tree, Everything Would Be Alright, and small Douglas Fir trees to plant. And, of course, we got some great photos and videos.

We also read a letter written by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden expressing his appreciation that “…young leaders like you are showing your community and nation your vision for a low-carbon future and what it will take to get there…. Your commitment to climate education, advocacy and stewardship is another example of Oregonians coming together when we need it most.”

We would like to thank all those involved in this wonderful Academy. I think the Ambassadors and their families appreciated the work that Linda, Pam, Jon, Gary, and many others had put into the Academy. Everyone agreed that Isaac, Dylan, Mirabel, and Amelia did an awesome job leading the Academy, and that Bill’s parent meeting was excellent. Special thanks to Mayor Bennett, Kathleen, Stacey, and Senator Merkley and for the generous support of other community volunteers who volunteered at the Academy and in other ways. In addition, thanks to Jajgit Nagra Field Representative, who assisted U.S. Senator Jeff Merkely with sending a letter in support of our youth, and to Ree Armitage, Field Representative, who arranged for the letter from U.S. Senator Ron Wyden.

Thank you also to Rob Vergun for all he did behind the scenes.

You can find more pictures of the Academy here.

You want to become a Climate Justice Ambassador? Then register here for an Academy in your region.


This article is over a year old and may not reflect latest facts and figures. If you have any questions, please contact media@plant-for-the-planet.org