Between October 17th and 21st six South High students participated in an environmental conference called Power Shift. Power Shift is a biannual environmental conference which called together high school and college students from all over the nation to discuss, learn, and act on environmental issues. Sophomores, Sjournee Quaidoo and Kendra Roedl, and seniors, Annika Myers, Shira Breen, Priyanka Zylstra, and Etta Harkness Bartholdi traveled over seventeen hours to and from Pittsburg-where the conference was held- for this four day long experience.
“I went in with the expectation to be “refueled” and inspired, reminded why I am part of the environmental movement.” Said Senior Priyanka Zylstra, “I thought I could narrow down my focus to specific issues and get more involved with projects focusing on them. I found my expectations were passed.”
Every day there were over thirty workshops to choose from, some titles included The School to Prison Pipeline, Power and Privilege, Anti-Oppression in NGO’s, The Keystone pipeline-experiences from frontline communities. “The workshops which focus on issues of social justice has a really big impact on me. “ Senior Anika Meyers commented, “Everyone at powershift was so open to new ideas and thoughts, it made every discussion very memorable and view changing. The school to prison pipeline was probably the most interesting session, because it was something everyone who came from south could relate to.”
The school to prison pipeline workshop was interesting because the students who went found it to be directly applicable to South. The school to prison pipeline is “A system within schools that criminalizes students and restricts them from their rights to an education.” Explained sophomore, Sjournee Quaidoo, “I see the connection between the criminalization of our education system and the climate justice issues that tend to have stronger more negative affects on uneducated communities specifically.”
“I have learned how these big issues are connected on a very broad sense, but I have also learned how to be a better organizer, facilitator, and advocate for climate and environmental justice issues in an effective, strategic, productive way.” Remarked senior Shira Breen.
Zylstra, inspired after powershift, looks forward that;“My life goal is to empower youth in oppressed communities and help them realize they can make a difference. Yet, this wont be possible without the help of my generation. We truly do need to shift the power.”