Getting Students Involved in New Jersey
By Victoria Pan, New Jersey Chapter's High School Coordinator
One of our “success stories” includes the Students Saving Energy “Meet and Greet” event. The SSE meet and greet was held in October at the Ridgewood Public Library. It was a great opportunity for students from various high school environmental clubs throughout North Jersey to come together to learn more about our campaigns and brainstorm ideas for how they can make their schools more sustainable.
We provided many resources, ideas, and supplies for clubs to take home so that everyone could start off the year on the right foot. There were guest speakers and refreshments, and everyone received a free reusable bag, too. Our goal was to create a strong network of students that work together to take action in our communities. We were able to engage many of them in becoming a part of the Sierra Club, especially in community environment functions.
After the event, we made sure to get feedback from students and maintain communication. This event was definitely an impetus for a new and exciting youth energy conservation movement.
As a result of our event, we were able to garner a fresh group of young people motivated to take action to save energy in their schools and communities. Around 30 people were in attendance, including the media. Introducing these students to the SSE network has allowed us to not only create a solid foundation of student activists, but also to bring greater youth involvement to the Sierra Club.
The major factors that contributed to our success included effective organization and planning. This included efficient time management and use of resources both online and in the community. We utilized many local and national channels to get information about our event out there. In addition, we received generous financial support from local chapters that have been able to provide funds to cover costs.
Some challenges that we met along the way included, at one point, figuring out how to send invitations to more high schools. We ended up searching for individual school websites, then their environmental clubs, and finally, the contact info for each club’s advisors. From there we were able to send out emails and receive responded from the teachers and students leaders.
The best way to get people interested is by instilling a sense of enthusiasm. Through the email invitations we sent out, we made sure to use words that really conveyed the message – that the event was not only going to be educational and resourceful, but also fun!
We also learned that it’s not worth stressing out over minute details when organizing an event. Sometimes the most miniscule details can cause overburdening frustration. If something doesn’t turn out the way it’s supposed to, let it be.
For this event, we created an online presentation using a program called Prezi, which is a great resource for creative presentations beyond the usually PowerPoint slides. It does wonders in actively engaging the audience in whatever you are presenting. We also created an energy project guide for students – a handout that students can use to organize their action plan for projects, as well as individual project guides that contain detailed steps on how to complete an SSE project. We gave out free Students Saving Energy reusable bags as souvenirs.