Young People as Agents of Change

On March 20, 2017, three Desmond Tutu Center Youth Fellows joined Earth Charter Indiana and several other Indiana youth organizations to help the Indiana Pacers tip off Pacers Go Green Week. Following a presentation by the Youth Fellows and representatives of the accompanying organizations, the youths were invited on court before the beginning of a stirring game in which the Pacers battled the Utah Jazz.

Pacers Go Green Week is “designed to support environmental initiatives and encourage fans to ‘go green,’” and is part of a wider NBA project called NBA Green, which aims to “generate awareness and funds for protecting the environment.”

Several youth organizations presented their work alongside the Youth Fellows. They included #JustTrayNo, a group of Indianapolis Public School students who successfully organized to convince IPS to change their cafeteria trays from polystyrene to cardboard, a more environmentally friendly material. Youth from the Felege Hiywot Center, an organization which teaches gardening and environmental preservation with a focus on community service, also presented their work and discussed their experiences. In addition, attendees of the Peace Learning Center’s Indy Youth Social Justice Leadership Camp presented the lessons they’ve learned about environmental justice and environmental racism. Other organizations and campaigns present were Kids for Climate, the Orchard School, Youth M.O.V.E. Indiana, Youth Power Indiana, and Groundwork Indy.

Three Desmond Tutu Center Youth Fellows — Paige Feyock, Jaina Cox, and Jamela Jafari — presented their work at the event. After describing the Youth Fellows Initiative to the audience, Paige described her plan to provide menstrual care and hygiene products to those in the homeless community who need it. She also hopes to be an advocate for awareness of the larger issues surrounding menstrual care and homelessness. Jaina is spearheading an initiative to provide career education and exploration opportunities to young students, grades 2 to 3. Her goal is to expand the horizons for young students, especially those who have been socially marginalized.

Finally, Jamela is leading a campaign which highlights and examines intersectional identity through artwork. In their presentations, the Youth Fellows demonstrated the depth of understanding that goes into planning a social justice initiative, as well as the passion required to successfully implement one. Hearing about their work alongside that of the many youth organizations present was truly inspiring, and generated an atmosphere of optimism and hope about the years to come.

Following the conclusion of the presentations, several youth, including some of the Youth Fellows, were invited to go down on court before the Pacers game. They received recognition for their work, as well as signed souvenirs from the players. The festivities continued as the Youth Fellows, with the other youth organizations present, enjoyed the game, in which the Pacers lost narrowly to the Utah Jazz. The Desmond Tutu Center owes thanks to Earth Charter Indiana, the Indiana Pacers, and the Herbert Simon Family Foundation for making this celebration of social and environmental justice work possible. You can meet from all the Youth Fellows on July 15 during the Project Symposium and Celebration. The event is free with registration: visit dtcyouthfellowscelebration.eventbrite.com

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