Ruben Monteiro, Reina Ruzigana and Armel Maloji in the South Portland City Hall Chambers. Alongside Noor Al Saedi, the team spent the summer meeting with city officials to learn and to brainstorm methods for engaging youth in climate change resilience. (Courtesy photo)

SOUTH PORTLAND — Four South Portland teens tackled the issue of educating youth about climate change and strategized methods for mobilizing youth involvement in climate change resilience.

On Aug. 1, Armel Maloji, Ruben Monteiro, and Reina Ruzigana presented their team’s efforts and results at the Gateway to Opportunity (G2O) closing event, held at the McKernan Hospitality Center in South Portland. Also on their team was Noor Al Saedi.

“We spent the summer focusing on climate change, and doing something about it,” Ruzigana said. Ruzigana is an incoming senior at South Portland High School, and this is her second year working with Gateway to Opportunity.

South Portland school administrators, stakeholders, sponsors, and com- munity members listened to the team’s synopsis of their work.

Their goal was to re-imagine strategies to engage youth in climate resilience efforts. They partnered with One Climate Future, a joint South Portland-Portland effort to promote economic prosperity, social equality, and build climate resilience, Mayor Claude Morgan said.

Monteiro said the team met at the South Portland City Hall to strategize with Julia Rosenbach, South Portland sustainability director.

Ultimately, Maloji said, the pressing issue is how to get people to care actively about climate change.

“We decided to make an Instagram page as a way to connect with youth,” Maloji said. “Teens spend a lot of time scrolling and liking pics, so we created a page to reach out to them.”

The team’s Instagram can be viewed at __ thebigblueplanet__.

The youth participants were led by near-peer leader Ysanne Bethel, who graduated from the University of Southern Maine in May.

The project was coordinated by the Maine Youth Action Network at the Opportunity Alliance and the Cutler Institute.

“We launched this program in 2016,” Clare Shroeder said. “We asked what it would be like for youth to come together and drive progress for a local business with the support of an undergrad student. Three years later, here we are.”

Gateway to Opportunity’s mission is to use work-based learning to connect young people with paid learning projects where they hone and develop 21st century skills and are exposed to career pathways, post-secondary education options, and professional networks. It emphasizes centering youth voices, allowing youth to lead, and encouraging reflection on their experiences.

“Before the program, I believed that if I voiced my ideas to adults in my life, my voice might not be heard,” Monteiro said. “My time at G2O taught me to speak up and share my thoughts and ideas.”

Evelyn Waugh can be reached at [email protected] or 780- 9026.

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