The Next Generation of Changemakers

Written By: Kayla Kraiker, Roots & Shoots: U of T Chapter Leader and JGI Canada volunteer
Category: Youth Power

Excited chatter filled the air, as a dozen high school students filed onto a school bus in the pouring rain last month. The eager teens were on their way to a weekend of team and leadership building activities held at the YMCA outdoor camp in Caledon, Ontario.

This was the culminating event in JGI Canada’s first Launch + Link pilot program where students from across the province designed unique year-long projects that addressed local environmental concerns with an understanding that solutions must reflect the needs of people, animals and nature.

From raising awareness of the decline in honey bees to organic gardening to leading educational workshops, the hardworking students tackled issues they were passionate about, determined that their efforts would make a difference in their own communities.

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Colton helped save the Grimsby Irish Grove Woodlot from development.

The rain that continued to pour down when the group arrived at the camp failed to dampen anyone’s spirits. Nestled among 263 acres of rolling hills and the changing leaves of the forest, the camp was the perfect setting for the youth to reflect on their accomplishments and how they can build on success and widen the network of young people who, like them, want to make the world a better place one community at a time.

JGI Canada’s Dani Sarusi coordinates Roots & Shoots high school programming, and worked closely the Launch + Link teens. “It’s incredible to see the growth in these young people. I’ve been working with them throughout the year, and their confidence levels have just blossomed.” Sabrina, a volunteer with JGI Canada and a Roots & Shoots youth leader agreed wholeheartedly: “It was incredibly exciting to see such young people engaged in these issues, and emerge as leaders in their own right.”

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Youth engage in team building and leadership activities.

On Saturday evening, students attended the first ever “Janey” Awards, where JGI staff formally recognized the achievements of all the participants. This had to be the most moving part of the weekend.

Each student spoke about the journey of their project, how it made a difference both in their neighbourhood and to them personally. Laryssa, a budding nature photographer, used her photographs to inspire her community to connect with the outdoors. She gave thanks to the beauty and benefits of nature and vowed to continue to lead nature walks and to convey the importance of the natural world. Others spoke about their increased confidence levels and how much they had learned about sustainability and their contribution to creating a sustainable world.

The weekend wrapped up on Sunday with a nature hike, a tour of the YMCA’s organic farm and planting native maple trees.

Time to go home. All the students were thankful for the opportunity to reconnect with each other and learn about each other’s projects. Everyone said they were inspired and excited to continue their Roots & Shoots journey.

Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots programming helps build the knowledge and confidence necessary for the next generation of Janes to address our planet’s needs—and the best part is that anyone can get involved!

If you or a young person you know is interested in making a positive impact on our world

Get Involved!