This fall, WISE launched The Bio/Diversity Project Leadership Program. This program aims to facilitate the development of the next generation of environmental leaders and scientists committed to diversity and inclusion through a year-long paid leadership development program. Each month, participants attend workshops and participate in activities that help them build knowledge, skills, and confidence to proactively work to foster environmental sustainability and equity.
In October, Leadership Program participants had the chance to attend a day-long event called the Speak Out Youth Summit. This event brought together over 1600 young people from high schools, colleges, and communities across the country to explore racial justice, leadership development, and radical imagination. Organized by The Institute for Democratic Education and Culture, the event featured inspiring workshops and addresses by Angela Davis, Winona LaDuke, and Aisha Fukushima, among many others. Here’s what some of the Leadership Program participants had to say about their experience attending and learning at the Youth Summit:
“The Speak-Out Summit was amazing, extremely informational and inspiring. From the start to the end, we were not only being spoken to and informed about many of the different issues presented today, we were involved in every section whatever which way. I immediately got engaged even BEFORE the event began, as they had us find out what Native American stolen land we live on. It allowed us to acknowledge and recognize that we ourselves in a way contribute towards some of the problems, even if involuntary. I was able to connect with both the speakers and other participants through the activities that were presented throughout the entire event. It gave me the ability to look into these issues much more deeply and directly address how my actions contribute to them, and it was an eye-opening experience. Being able to listen to the stories of experienced activists and be given advice by them was truly inspiring, and it gives me an insight on the fact that no matter how far we’ve come as a society, there is still so much that needs to be done. We must keep on pushing for diversity and inclusion everywhere we go, and this event gave me resources and new ideas on how to incorporate that not only into my own life, but into the projects for the Bio/diversity Project.”
“Through our Leadership Program we have been cultivating the power of diversity in our institutions and environments; however, we have to acknowledge that turning ideas into action comes with systemic and personal biases that have to be unconditioned. This is why I’m so grateful to have been a participant of the SpeakOut Youth Summit with all the wonderful speakers and leaders who shared their stories and offered us tools for critical thinking and self-understanding in this process. Everyone has a role in creating effective change and I learned more about my own strengths as someone who likes to connect with people through art and science. It was empowering to build off the collective knowledge of Black and Indigenous women, non-binary and trans folks who are already leading us into an equitable future. A line stood out to me from Micky ScottBey Jones’ poem, Invitation to Brave Space, “There is no such thing as a ‘safe space’ We exist in the real world”. Inclusion and diversity isn’t about checking off boxes or creating spaces for underrepresented people that already exist exclusively. It’s about breaking down barriers that prevent these groups from having access to those spaces in the first place. This resonated with me as a woman of color who is pursuing a science degree in an underrepresented field.”
“I thought I would have more answers after this summit, but I have more questions about how I can help. The tips they offered are excellent, calling in our people and challenging colorism are two ways that are important but will be difficult to implement. In reflecting, I realize that my own biases have affected many of my decisions in life and I have to continue to recognize and acknowledge them so I can do better. WE cannot stop fighting for equality.”
Supporting Leadership Program participants’ attendance at this event is one way WISE hopes to more actively engage issues of racial injustice and work to more proactive take an anti-racist approach in our work. By supporting students to gain additional knowledge, skills, and inspiration, we’re working to foster the development of the next generation of STEM leaders ready, able, and willing to tackle injustices of all kinds head-on. If you’re interested in supporting The Bio/Diversity Project and the Leadership Program consider supporting our current crowdfunding campaign. All funds raised will go directly to supporting students and enabling the sustainability of the program. Click HERE to learn more.