The National High School Climate Forum
by Alexander Noviello
- Name: The National High School Climate Forum
- Type of project: Education and Sustainability
- Location: Virtual; throughout the U.S.A.
- Size: around 45 high schools in 25 states
- Aim: The mission of the National High School Climate Forum (NHSCF) is to foster an exchange of ideas between student environmental leaders across the country, while also educating these students about climate change. The NHSCF accomplishes its mission through speaker events, monthly newsletters, discussion sessions, and our annual Youth Summit in May.
- What is/are the aim(s) of your project?
The mission of the National High School Climate Forum is to foster an exchange of ideas between student environmental leaders across the country, while also educating these students about climate change. As an organization, our main focus is related to generating new ideas for campus sustainability at over forty member high schools across the United States. The diversity of the schools in the forum, coming from all regions of the country, allows our student leaders or “NHSCF Delegates” to learn from their peers and gain new ideas that can be applied in their own communities. In addition to simply fostering an exchange of ideas regarding sustainability on campus, we hope to inspire our member schools to pursue other environment-related activities, such as conservation, climate action, or even environmental science research work. Education is another significant aspect of the NHSCF’s mission, as we feel that climate-knowledgeable students will be critical in the future fight against climate change and other environmental issues.
- What work are you doing to reach your project’s aims?
The NHSCF achieves these goals through our monthly newsletters, speaker events, and annual Youth Summit in May. Our monthly newsletters and our active, online forum are critical to achieving the goals of the NHSCF. The forum constantly facilitates online discussion between youth environmental leaders related to their respective initiatives. Monthly newsletters contain written descriptions of the projects of a few selected member schools, in addition to: sustainability tips; information on extracurricular opportunities or programs related to the environment; additional resources related to important environmental current events. The NHSCF also holds monthly delegation meetings at which our delegates have the opportunity to speak with one another in a live setting.
Speaker events are the primary means through which the NHSCF seeks to drive climate education at our member high schools. We host two speaker events each year, related to a specific theme. Our Fall 2021 event focused on attributing natural disasters to climate change, while previous events focused on wildfires and sustainability on college campuses, among other things.
The last primary method through which the NHSCF accomplishes its mission is our annual Youth Summit in May. Each Youth Summit features speaker presentations, in addition to student presentations by selected students from our member schools. The summit concludes each NHSCF year and provides students with the opportunity to present their work, learn from speakers, and more.
- How did your project originate? What was it inspired by?
The NHSCF was founded in October 2020 in response to the difficulty in generating ideas for campus sustainability and to provide climate education opportunities for students at other high schools across the country. The forum seeks to harness the diversity of our member schools in order to best foster an exchange of ideas between our student environmental leaders. After founding the forum, we initially reached out to only a few schools, subsequently growing rapidly to our current state of about forty-five member schools from roughly twenty states.
- Who is the team behind your project?
The forum is currently led by two of its founders, Alex and Andrew Noviello, (juniors at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey) in addition to a fantastic student leadership team: Ella Weinstein and Alexandra Fernandez as Heads of Planning, Elise Picard and Isabelle Miller as Heads of Recruitment, and Gabriella Jolly as Head of Communications, as well as Divya Sharma and Jason Ma, as NHSCF Vice Presidents.
- Did you have to overcome any challenges in your project? If so, what were they, and how did you overcome them?
The NHSCF’s most significant challenge is, without a doubt, generating interest related to the environment among students at our member schools (a key aspect of our mission). We continue to do our best to generate interest, educate students, and equip them with the ability to make their own schools and communities more sustainable. However, this mission is by no means easy to achieve as students face significant obstacles in the process, including finding time for these initiatives themselves.
Other challenges the NHSCF has had to deal with include finding speakers for our events. Luckily, however, speakers have been very receptive to our communications and we have had the opportunity to invite some truly amazing individuals to speak at our member schools.
- What is the biggest success of your project to date?
The biggest success of the NHSCF to date was probably our 2021 Annual Youth Summit. The summit consisted of presentations by executives at First Solar, General Motors and Conservation International, three organizations committed to sustainability and the fight against climate change. In addition to presentations by these speakers, the summit featured presentations by students on “Environmental Justice”, “Environmental Books & Films”, as well as “Sustainability Across the USA”, which sought to showcase the differences in sustainability initiatives across varying regions of the country.
- What are you currently working on? What are your plans for the upcoming year?
We have many new ideas for the NHSCF this academic year, including virtual documentary viewings, online discussion sessions and potential forum-wide projects in the future. We are also excited to have hosted our Fall speaker event on natural disasters in November and we have unveiled our 2021-2022 NHSCF Sustainability Competition between our member schools, the winner of which will be announced at the 2022 summit.
Alex Noviello is a junior at The Lawrenceville School, New Jersey, and is one of the founders of the National High School Climate Forum. Alex has always had a passion for conservation and has had the opportunity to carry out several conservation projects around his community in central New Jersey. In addition to leading the National High School Climate Forum, Alex runs a non-profit organization called GrassRoots Conservation which provides grants to individuals and small groups looking to complete their own conservation projects. Editing on this piece for ClimaTalk was done by Andrew Noviello, another founder of the NHSCF.