Empowering our youth
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.