The Wild Center's Youth Climate Program was born out of a major national climate conference held at the Center in 2008. The conference, Land of Opportunity: The American Response to Climate Change, brought leaders from around the nation into a closed-door gathering to find a way that we could map a path to lower carbon emissions for the United States. The Conference attendees included John Holdren, Frances Beinecke, Michael Levi and more than 150 others. What this conference, and another Adirondack conference that followed, did not have, was student participants.
A few students were invited to watch the proceedings, and for one, Zach Berger, watching wasn't enough. He approached The Wild Center to see whether he could help organize a Youth Summit for students in the region, where students could come, learn, and develop their own action plans for their schools. The Adirondack Youth Climate Summit was hatched from that idea. The annual Summit, with particpants from area high schools, colleges and universities, now impacts schools with more than 25,000 students each year.
The Summit has grown to encompass a full-year program with outreach, educational and leadership opportunities for the students.
The Youth Summit concept went global during a cultural exchange between the Center and Heureka Science Center outside Helsinki, FInland. The Finns modeled their Summit on The Wild Center version, even down to the t-shirt design. The language was different, but the message was the same.