Youth Energy Squad
The Youth Energy Squad (YES) grows the next generation of green leaders in Metro Detroit by engaging young people in projects that make their homes, schools, and communities more sustainable for everyone. Each year, hundreds of YES students lead change through 60+ school green teams, which are facilitated by YES AmeriCorps Green School Coordinators (GSCs). Green teams meet weekly to address a place-based sustainability issue central to their community. Through their YES experience, students grow skills in E-STEM, hone their personal and professional leadership styles, and are exposed to green careers - all while making a tangible impact in Metro Detroit.
The Youth Energy Squad receives our 3rd tier award for their powerful role in activism around E-STEM issues. In an area where environmental problems threaten the health and safety of many communities, young people work in teams with environmental justice experts to study the risks, learn about neighborhood residents’ concerns and aspirations, and partner with the community organizations to design projects to mitigate those risks. Judges applauded this approach because it connects young people to multiple sides of an issue, so they get to know the people in these communities and examine the policies that affect them. Youth Energy Squad’s flexibility around accommodating students’ needs and interests received high scores as well. The program engages each young person in learning crucial leadership and life skills alongside exploring E-STEM concepts in a way that personally resonates with them. In practice, this means that professionalism and project management are meaningfully anchored to principles of sustainability for students. Overall, judges pointed to Youth Energy Squad as a model for matching the interests of young people with the needs and aspirations of communities in need of E-STEM solutions.