February 4, 2014

Florida Youth Unite in Solidarity for 5th Annual Leadership Summit!

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334 The USF Power Shift team rallying to being an end to dirty coal! Florida carried the THIRD largest state convergence at PS 2013.

As an National Wildlife Federation (NWF) Campus Ecology Fellow at the University of South Florida in Tampa, my campaign aimed to bring the Divestment/Reinvestment Movement to the “Dirty South” in order to end the expansion of unjust and polluting energy utilities.  As all campaign do, mine grew and developed over time, and I realized that what my campus needed was the sound leadership skills and organizing training necessary for a long term and sustainable Divestment Campaign. I was a senior leader on campus and thought this would be a plausible and useful expenditure of my time.

I was also a rising leader in a statewide coalition that unites Florida youth working on campuses and in the community for climate justice and clean energy, the Florida Youth Environmental Sustainability (FL YES) Coalition. As a State Lead for the organization I recruited students in the Tampa Bay region to attend Power Shift 2013 in Pittsburg, PA and gain valuable skills in environmental issues, organizing, and justice.

Upon returning from Power Shift I was nominated and elected Co-Chair of the statewide network. Honored and humbled, I put my feelers out. My Co-Chair and I recruited a committee to help plan the next big step for our coalition and for my campaign to build leadership across my campus and state: The FL YES Leadership Summit. This annual convergence of Florida youth has been happening for five years, and after attending for two years and leading trainings there during the last year, I was excited to lead and plan the summit for 2014.

My awesome team helped to make this summit one of the largest and the first entirely student organized FL YES conference. We had nearly a dozen student leaders conducting trainings, workshops, and sessions for over 50 youth activists from across Florida. This summit also boasted seven guest speakers from across the state and nation, who motivated and captured the audience with their green energy solutions, enlightening trainings, and inspiring fellowship and leadership programs. Some highlighted speakers include Joe Solomon, Social Media guru from the Energy Action Coalition and co-founder of Green Memes (the team that produced the ultimate social media organizing guide!) and Eriqah Foreman-Williams, NWF’s very own Wonder Woman based in Atlanta, who spoke about her organizing with Campus Ecology and the EcoLeaders initiative.

335 A slide from Joe’s social media training which asked students to think creatively about being social media storytellers.

We closed the summit already noting the impact made on these young leaders as we watched them organize a solidarity action for the West Virginia Water Crisis [to donate to folks still struggling click here!].  And we super pumped to help bring their ideas to the statewide agenda and enable their initiatives to materialize and mature on their campuses and in their communities.

336 Florida Stands with West Virginia! #WVWaterCrisis

As I move into the second half of this fellowship I am excited to see where future leadership development opportunities may take me. I hope to continue to empower students at my university and across Florida to take real and tangible climate actions against dirty, unjust, and polluting utilities. I believe that the most formative and essential portion of this struggle is creating strong, enduring, caring, inclusive and diverse leaders who have the power to continue the fight.

Always Growing with this Movement,

-Shaza

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