Em­pow­er­ing our youth

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - WATERMATTERS - CHRIS­TINE Y. CHAVEZ

I re­cently had the plea­sure of work­ing with Bob Kreger on our­weekly “Save Wa­ter Santa Fe” ra­dio show. Bob was on the show pro­mot­ing the Ci­ti­zen’s Cli­mate Lobby and the event “Get­ting Be­yond the Cli­mate Ar­gu­ment: Plug­ging into So­lu­tions.” The con­fer­ence was broad­cast across the state, with sev­eral cities en­gag­ing in their own panel dis­cus­sions af­ter­ward that were rel­e­vant to their re­spec­tive cities. The lineup was so im­pres­sive and I was ex­cited to at­tend but even more ex­cited to be able to par­tic­i­pate on a panel with col­leagues whom I’ve re­spected and en­joyed work­ing with for some time. The part of the con­fer­ence that I found the most im­pres­sive was the youth en­gage­ment that took place. There were youth pre­sen­ta­tions all morn­ing as well as a youth track in the afternoon.

For some time now, the­Wa­ter Con­ser­va­tion Pro­gram has caught onto the idea of peer-to-peer ed­u­ca­tion. There is a lot of re­search now that shows how ef­fec­tive it can be to place stu­dents in the role of the ed­u­ca­tor with is­sues re­lated to health and the en­vi­ron­ment. It’s a win-win sit­u­a­tion be­cause the stu­dent can de­velop lead­er­ship skills, gain the re­spect of peers, and in­crease knowl­edge in an area of in­ter­est. For the stu­dents on the other end, it has been shown that there is more cred­i­bil­ity that young peo­ple have with their peers and that they are more likely to re­spond to the mes­sage and change their at­ti­tudes and be­hav­iors if they be­lieve that the mes­sen­ger is like them and may face their same con­cerns or pres­sures.

We tried this ap­proach with this year’s Wa­ter Fi­esta. As part of our Pass­port Pro­gram, 4th-grade stu­dents went through a spe­cial­ized ro­ta­tion that in­cluded peerto-peer ed­u­ca­tion ses­sions with stu­dents from Monte del Sol Char­ter School and Santa Fe High School. The stu­dents worked closely with their teach­ers and with­Water Con­ser­va­tion staff to de­velop ac­tiv­i­ties fo­cused on wa­ter con­ser­va­tion. The same group of stu­dents had vol­un­teered for years prior to this as es­corts for each group through the fi­esta. They observed dif­fer­ent pre­sen­ta­tions in the past and were fa­mil­iar with the lo­gis­tics of the fi­esta it­self. This along with men­tor­ing from their teach­ers and staff al­lowed them to take on the role of peer ed­u­ca­tor. We re­ceived great feed­back on their pre­sen­ta­tions and we are nowl­ook­ing for other op­por­tu­ni­ties to work with these groups as part of our ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram.

Em­pow­er­ing our youth with this type of op­por­tu­nity is very ex­cit­ing. Of­ten young adults want to be part of the so­lu­tion and may not be able to find a place for their voice or their work. By train­ing the­mand sup­port­ing them in this ef­fort, we can tap into an en­tirely dif­fer­ent re­source. When it comes to is­sues like cli­mate change or the im­por­tance of wa­ter con­ser­va­tion, what bet­ter way to bring the is­sues and po­ten­tial so­lu­tions to the ta­ble for all to en­gage in?

Chris­tine Y. Chavez has a back­ground in wa­ter rights ad­min­is­tra­tion and energy and wa­ter con­ser­va­tion pro­gram man­age­ment in the state ofNewMex­ico. She is a grad­u­ate of New Mex­ico State Univer­sity with a B.S. in en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ence and an M.S. in bi­ol­ogy. Chris­tine is the­Wa­ter Con­ser­va­tionMan­ager for the City of Santa Fe. She may be reached at 505.955.4219 or cy­chavez@santafenm.gov.

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