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SGAP Leaders is a non profit program based in Rockville, Maryland that provides opportunities for motivated, underserved students to develop leadership and  critical skills needed for college and career readiness.  They are now focused on helping middle and high schoolers to become climate leaders.

A major concern of both parents and policymakers these days is students’ mental health.  This is not just the result of the Covid pandemic that forced so many students to miss out on both school and their friendships but also because of the constant fear that climate change will cause some catastrophic changes to their lives.

A recent survey by a team of British university psychologists probed the climate anxiety felt by 10,000 young people aged 16-25 around the world; 77% said ‘the future is frightening’; 68% feel sad; 63% feel anxious; 39% feel ‘hesitant to have children”.

Educators are also perplexed as to how to solve this problem, with only 4% of students reporting that they know a lot and 42% feel that they “learned little or hardly anything from school.” Will beefing up traditional climate education in schools be enough? There may be peril in making students feel even worst about the state of the planet. Given these considerations, SGAP Leaders is advocating for a proactive approach that returns agency to students and empowering them to work collectively to mitigate some of the most severe effects of global warming.

Returning some agency to students is not just a matter of signaling to them they need to recycle more or turn off lights in their home but rather points to a whole host of activities they can engage in to reduce the carbon footprint of their communities. They might want to start first with their own school building. As one Harvard report pointed out, ‘schools are one of the largest public sector consumers of energy, producing the equivalent of 18 coal-fired power plants or 15 million cars each year.’ Students need to ask such questions as to why for example are so many schools dependent on diesel burning school buses instead of moving to cleaner and less carbon burning electric vehicles?

With the help of some seed funding from Constellation Energy, SGAP Leaders have designed an innovative climate change curriculum that demonstrates how many critical decisions are made at the local level and beyond the scope of politicians. SGAP Leaders believe if they provide students with the knowledge they need to act, we can begin to make the strategic choices necessary. An average school’s reach of between 10,000-100,000 people is the right size, according to Brookings, to make collective action at the community level a reality. Let’s start moving along these lines and help save both our planet and students’ mental health! SGAP Leader’s special focus is on the historically under served communities both in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland as well as the District and New Jersey. We can create the next generation of leaders and we can impact students’ mental health at the same time as well as doing our best to make our planet the sustainable place it once was! But we do need your help!

Please consider supporting SGAP’s efforts to develop Climate Coaches and Climate Clinics and our Sustainability Challenge Workshops

Sponsorships are available for all these events beginning at $5,000 for recognition and going up to $20,000. If you’re interested in assisting with this effort, please contact Lauren Peters at [email protected]