MSMHS Hosts First Youth Climate Summit in Connecticut

Students from across the region gathered to learn about environmental protection in an event put on by the MSMHS Environmental Club.

MSMHS Hosts First Youth Climate Summit in Connecticut
During the water pollution breakout, students had the chance to see a watershed table, which simulates the flow of pollution inside ecosystems. Photography by Kaiden Chandler.

By Kaiden Chandler

Editor in Chief. Class of 2024

Students from four schools gathered at Ocean Beach on Thursday for the Southeastern Connecticut Youth Climate Summit. The event, believed to be the first of its kind in the state, was planned and hosted by the Marine Science Magnet High School’s student environmental club and focuses on local efforts for environmental protection. A broad array of local activists and politicians were in attendance as speakers, including State Representative Aundré Bumgardner, who represents Groton and Stonington.

The summit, which has been over a year in the making, has its beginnings in the fall of 2022, when then-new Town of Groton Sustainability and Resilience Manager Megan Granato met with MSMHS science teacher Ms. Johnston and principal Ms. Amatrudo to discuss the possibility of a student climate summit. Ms. Johnston, who is the advisor for the MSMHS Environmental Club, says that the students “were so motivated and the driving force and making this happen,” adding that the students took ownership of “reaching out to speakers and coordinating plans so that event ran successfully.”

Initially, the students were met with difficulty when reaching out to the broader community. Student Cornelia Hatfield, one of the summit's primary organizers said that "we were pretty much told that we should scale down our aspirations for what the Environmental Club can do." Despite this, Zoe Wu, one of the summit's other lead planners said that this pushback was discouraging, but ultimately "has driven us to continue working even harder and to exceed expectations."

Students participated in a broad variety of environmentally-focused activities. Photography by Kaiden Chandler.

This year’s summit was focused on the impact of climate change on water quality, and students had the opportunity to learn about their role in water protection through science, policy, and activism. Students were in attendance from four schools — Marine Science, Norwich Tech, NFA, and Fitch.

The students in attendance began the day with a keynote speech by Erica Cirino, communications manager of Plastic Pollution Coalition. Cirino emphasized the importance of hope when thinking about ecological issues, saying “it's all about being informed, and not paralyzed."

This emphasis on action over inaction was present in many of the day’s activities. After the keynote, attendees spread out into breakout groups on a variety of environmental topics, including water quality monitoring, environmental justice, ecological restoration, political action, and pollution prevention.

Representative Aundré Bumgardener emphasized the importance of becoming involved in policy issues to create change. Photography by Kaiden Chandler.

Aundré Bumgardener, the state representative for parts of Stonington and Groton,  hosted a lesson on the importance of local legislators in creating environmental policy, saying that “it is so critically important that you know who they are” and highlighting the importance of becoming involved in policy issues to create change.

The Environmental Club students are hoping to run another summit next year, incorporating more schools and a broader array of speakers and activists. Student Zoe Wu, one of the event’s organizers, says that the club is “already trying to think about ideas to do for next year and ways to make it better,” adding an increased number and variety of speakers and attendees.

The Current