San Antonio high school students help city combat climate change

Program accepting applications now for interested students

The reports of climate change can be so daunting, especially to younger generations who anticipate inheriting the problem and figuring out how to solve it.
The reports of climate change can be so daunting, especially to younger generations who anticipate inheriting the problem and figuring out how to solve it.

SAN ANTONIO – The reports of climate change can be so daunting, especially to younger generations who anticipate inheriting the problem and figuring out how to solve it.

It’s why the city of San Antonio created Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s Youth Engagement Council for Climate Initiatives. The program is for local high school students who are interested in engaging in community issues surrounding climate change, environmental policy, and/or environmental justice.

“I think the mayor’s council really gave me a chance to learn and act on a local level,” Jaya Kosaraju, a junior at the International School of Americas, said. Kosaraju is part of the first group of students from when the council was started last year.

“I think sometimes we focus on climate change from a global standpoint, and it is very daunting. But we forget that acting on a local level is still very meaningful, significant progress. It’s been really impactful getting to connect with influential individuals within each district to talk about the importance of utilizing carbon-free transportation like bikes and bike lanes and listening to people share environmental challenges that they are facing within their own community.”

A partnership between the City of San Antonio and the sustainability education nonprofit, EcoRise, funded by the Hollomon Price Foundation, the Mayor’s Youth Engagement Council provides a way for youth to actively engage in the civic process and invest in the future of their city. The council was established last year to foster and include the youth’s voice in the execution of the City of San Antonio’s first Climate Action and Adaption Plan (CAAP), which was adopted on Oct. 17, 2019.

“I honestly didn’t really know what San Antonio was doing to tackle climate change and carbon emissions,” Kosaraju said. “But now I know that we have a climate change and adaptation plan in place and members of our community and government are actually really dedicated to working towards a solution. Through the mayor’s council, we’ve had the opportunity to work with the San Antonio Office of Sustainability and just getting to hear about their work was really inspiring and motivating.”

Last year’s council piloted a bus stop rooftop garden, helped educate their community about renewable energy and recycling, installed bug hotels to increase biodiversity, and advocated for local policy changes related to the CAAP. Kosaraju was part of the group that worked to install a garden on top of a bus stop.

“We wanted to create an area that takes carbon out of the atmosphere, also known as a carbon sink,” she said. “So we wanted it to be esthetically pleasing and provide resources for bus users to learn about nature and climate change in both Spanish and English. We had the opportunity to work with master’s students from the School of Architecture at UT Austin, employees at VA and gardeners from Community Gardens. So it was just really cool getting insight and motivation from such knowledgeable individuals that it really pushed us to just continue our work.”

The Bug Hotel is part of the North American Friendship Garden. It was commissioned by the San Antonio River Foundation, designed by Ford, Powell & Carson architect Tobin Hays, and built by Greenwood Milling Co. The Mayor’s Youth Council-Biodiversity group helped forage for materials in their backyards and filled the Bug Hotel with nesting materials for insects.

The location of the bug hotel is at Confluence Park in the North American Friendship Garden.

You can read more about their impact here.

I think our generation is definitely the ones inheriting the climate crisis,” Jaya said. “And now I think the responsibility is starting to fall on us to advocate. And adults and professionals that I’ve spoken with understand this. And they’re just really excited to hear about what we have to say.”

Motivated high school students interested in engaging in community issues connected to climate change, environmental policy, and/or environmental justice are encouraged to apply to the City of San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg’s Youth Engagement Council for Climate Initiatives. Applications for the council are open now through Friday. The council will convene this fall and work throughout the 2021–2022 school year

EcoRise has been activating students as green leaders over the last thirteen years in Texas and across the U.S.

For more information about the Mayor’s Youth Engagement Council and the application process, go to the application here. Interested students should complete the application form by Friday. Applicants are strongly encouraged to preview the questions and reach out to sharon@ecorise.org for any support they may need in filling out the application.

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About the Authors:

Sarah Acosta is a weekend Good Morning San Antonio anchor and a general assignments reporter at KSAT12. She joined the news team in April 2018 as a morning reporter for GMSA and is a native South Texan.

Azian Bermea is a photojournalist at KSAT.