Youth Climate Program

History & Recognition

History & Recognition

What started in the Adirondacks has grown to an internationally-recognized program. Take a look at how the Youth Climate has grown since its inception in 2008.


The Wild Center holds invitation-only national climate conference with science leaders from across the country, as well as some students. The conference left one student, Zach Berger, asking “why everyone [at the Summit] was so old.”


First Adirondack Youth Climate Summit (AYCS) is held at The Wild Center on November 9-10, 2009


First Youth Climate Summit outside of the Adirondacks… in Finland.


The White House Office of Science & Technology Policy highlighted the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit as one of nineteen key initiatives around the country.


February: Director of Climate Initiatives, Jen Kretser, and Gina Fiorile, AYCS alumni, are recognized by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as “Champions of Change for Climate Education and Literacy.” Gina was recognized not only for her AYCS involvement, but also for inspiring and starting a Youth Climate Summit at the University of Vermont.
Fall: The Youth Climate Summit model starts to take off, with new summits starting in Detroit, Seattle, Houston, and Burlington, VT.
October: Executive Director Stephanie Ratcliffe, along with Meadow Hackett and Erin Weaver, two AYCS student leaders, attended the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum in Paris. As part of the Forum, they led a workshop for international participants on Summits and how to start them in their home countries.
December: Gina Fiorile attended the United Nation’s COP 21 climate negotiations in Paris, France, where she served as a representative for The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program and presented Our Time to Lead: Youth Engagement on Climate Change as the opening presentation at the U.S. Center. Jen Kretser, Director of Climate Initiatives for the Wild Center, presented on a panel at COP 21 with “I Am Pro Snow,” an initiative of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project.


The Youth Climate Program receives a UL Innovative Education award, one of only five sites in North America selected.


January: Youth Climate Summit held in Sri Lanka. The Wild Center travels to Sri Lanka with a team of students and staff to assist with summit facilitation.
The Youth Climate Summit model continues to grow with 17 new sites around the world.


Jen Kretser, Gina Fiorile and Silas Swanson (2 youth climate alumni) participate in the Global Climate Action Summit in California, an event to convene leaders around the world to limit warming to 1.5C, the target in the Paris Climate Agreement.


Work with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Climate Smart Community program expands. Youth partner with local governments in 5 communities throughout New York State after learning about the Climate Smart Community program at a Youth Climate summit presentation.
AYCS alum Gina Fiorile is recognized by the North American Association for Environmental Education’s 30 Under 30 program for her work starting the Vermont Youth Climate Summit at the University of Vermont.


Director of Climate Initiatives Jen Kretser and the Jeanne Hutchins Youth Climate Coordinator Elodie Linck attend TEDx Countdown Summit in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Summit brings together 1,000 leaders as TED speakers share a blueprint for a beautiful net-zero future.
The Wild Center sends a ten-person delegation made up of Wild Center leadership and Youth Climate Program alums to Glasgow, Scotland for COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, as well as pre-COP26 events. The Wild Center’s delegates have a front-row seat as representatives from 197 countries seek solutions to mitigate ongoing effects of climate change. Read more on our special Climate Connection page.

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“The Youth Summit has been the foundation of my future. It opened up doorways for travel to places like Costa Rica, landed me as a featured person in a documentary and had me marching with nearly 400,000 individuals in the streets of NYC. When looking for colleges I had sustainability in mind and based my decision on the decisions and offering with regards to climate. Since having taken an interest in the environment and AYCS I have made it my personal goal to go into business, a career I knew I wanted, with a focus in promoting sustainable technologies and their proliferation.”

Cody Barry, Lake Placid High School student