Four Waikato teenagers passionate about the environment have returned from a national forum eager to use the knowledge gained during the event to improve their communities.
Waikato Regional Council nominated the students to attend the Sir Peter Blake Enviroleaders Youth Forum last month.
The annual event, run by the Sir Peter Blake Trust and Ministry for the Environment, was attended by 48 delegates aged 15-18 years. The four selected from Waikato were:
- Kendra Fenton – Diocesan School for Girls
- Wednesday Gilbert – Ngaruawahia High School
- Neeraj Khatri – Hamilton Boys High School
- Jarred Evanson – Mercury Bay Area School
Larissa Keast, from Te Awamutu College, attended the forum last year as a delegate and returned for 2011 as an assistant chaperone.
During the hands-on forum students undertook projects culminating in presentations to environmental and business leaders, as well as members of parliament.
Regional council schools programme coordinator Andrea Soanes, who attended the forum, said: “It’s inspiring to see our nation’s youth coming up with innovative ideas to make a real difference in addressing the environmental issues we face locally and globally.
“The forum is student-driven and designed to build the capability of our environmental leaders. These students have shown a keenness to take what they have learned and continue with environmental work in their local communities, as well as to encourage other young people to get involved too,” Ms Soanes said.
Kendra Fenton attended the forum looking for ideas that would help her school become more sustainable and eco friendly. During her ‘urban water management’ activity she learnt methods to test and evaluate the health of urban streams.
“Now I can show my school’s environment council so we can establish what needs to be done to improve the stream near our school,” Kendra said. “I am also taking what I have learnt to get the community near the stream involved and to raise people’s awareness of urban streams.”
Wednesday Gilbert said: “One of the many lessons I learnt was that with one action we take here locally, whether it’s choosing which shampoo brand to buy, there is always an impact globally.
“When our ‘sustainable tourism’ group visited Goat Island during the forum and we snorkelled in the marine reserve, we learnt how small things can impact on the environment, and how important it is to educate people in protecting our beautiful coasts,” Wednesday said.
Neeraj Khatri described the forum as “a lifetime experience never to be forgotten” and he has already taken what he learned to organise an ‘enviro-group’ at Hamilton Boys High School.
“As a group, we plan to carry out a range of tasks and activities, which will help the school and local community, in terms of the environmental issues we face today. I have learnt that even a small change can help the 'bigger picture' environment.”
Jarred Evanson came away from the forum more self-confident and inspired by the likeminded young people passionate about creating a healthier environment.
“Through the forum there is a network that actively keeps in touch with each other. And now that I am more aware of issues locally and globally, I’ve been able to make choices already which help the environment,” he said.