The Wild Center is sending a delegation to represent youth climate leaders that support the work of Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) working to empower all members of society to engage in climate action, through education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information, and international cooperation on these issues.
Delegates will participate in the Conference of Youth (COY). COY is the biggest youth conference related to the UN climate processes. Not only does COY prepare young people for their participation at COP, but it also brings together all collected inputs, which will feed directly into the climate negotiations via the official youth policy paper.
During COP, our delegation will be a part of the Blue Zone and will be listening in on negotiations and observing the process. Check out our Dispatches from Scotland page for daily updates, videos, blogs and photos from our delegates as they share their perspective from the frontlines of the UN Climate Change Conference.
Click to expand delegate information.
Andrew Fagerheim (he/him), a sophomore at Columbia University, is a youth climate leader from Homer, New York. In Homer, he led multiple youth-driven climate action projects: He co-founded the annual Central New York Youth Climate Summit, helped install a solar charging station for electronics at his high school, and presented at Summits around the state. Since 2019, Andrew has served as the Village of Homer’s Climate Smart Communities(CSC) Assistant Coordinator. This fall, the Village became New York State’s first and only municipality whose CSC task force was entirely led by young people. Andrew, who is studying at Columbia University’s Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, plans to major in earth and environmental engineering.
“I have been involved in local, regional, and state-level climate action and youth mobilization, and I am very excited to apply those experiences to international climate deliberations. This is a critical time for international cooperation on climate action and youth voices are all the more important. I am excited to discuss how young people can affect meaningful change in all levels of the climate movement.”
Gina Fiorile (she/her) is a program and communication coordinator for the Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network (CLEAN) at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at UCBoulder. She has also held climate-related positions with the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Climate Adaptation Science Center and George Mason University, where she earned a master’s degree in science communication. Gina has won recognition from the EPA and from The White House, where she has spoken numerous times as a “Champion of Change” for Climate Education and Literacy. She was a delegate at COP21 in Paris and is recognized as a “Global 30 Under 30” leader by the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE). She was recently awarded the Joe Witte Special Recognition in Science Communication Leadership Award, and currently serves on the Youth Advisory Board for The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program.
“It is past time to take action on climate change! We have a moral obligation to tackle this issue, as it will/is already impacting everyone in some way. Participation in COP 26 is an incredible opportunity for our country to take leadership on the greatest issue of our time.”
Elodie Linck (she/her) is The Wild Center’s climate communications fellow. In her position, she works with the Youth Climate Program to engage with and support youth as they take climate actions in their schools and communities. Elodie, who grew up in Saranac Lake, N.Y., played an active role in The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program as a high school student and has served as chair of the Youth Advisory Board since 2017. Shegraduated from Skidmore College in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and dance performance/choreography. In college, Elodie worked as a sustainability intern at Skidmore College with a focus on education and outreach and a concentration on environmental justice, and ran an outdoor education program for children in the Adirondacks.
“I am excited to represent youth at TEDx Countdown Summit because I think it is an incredible opportunity to elevate the work of The Wild Center as well as the work of informal education institutions in general in the climate movement. Furthermore, it is essential that youth voices remain central in important conversations surrounding climate, and I look forward to being a part of bringing climate to the international stage and amplifying solutions that will accelerate a transition to a more safe, sustainable, and equitable society.”
Elise Pierson (she/her) is an alumna of Lake Placid High School and currently a sophomore at St. Lawrence University. She is communications coordinator for the Lake Placid Climate Smart Communities Committee, andhas also been a ski instructor at Whiteface Mountain. In high school, Elise was co-president of the LPHS Environmental Club, where she coordinated a small farmers market and crafts fair called The Green Market for three years; successfully petitioned the Town of North Elba to become a Climate Smart Community; and attended several Youth Climate Summits across the state. Elise was salutatorian of her high school class.
“Having participated in several Youth Climate Summits, I have seen the effect of hundreds of students coming together to learn about and take action against climate change, and it’s incredibly inspiring. The Conference of Youth reinforces the idea that when youth are passionate about something, they can make large contributions if given room to speak and the tools to create change. By attending this conference our delegation is showing others that it’s possible to get involved in a movement even if you’re still in high school/college or unsure of your future aspirations, and that people value our voices on an international scale.”
Silas Swanson (he/him) is studying earth and environmental engineering and philosophy at Columbia University, where he is a senior. He is the founder and head coordinator for the Columbia Youth Climate Summit, and a member of the Youth Climate Program’s Advisory Board. Silas has also worked as a research assistant at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Columbia Electrochemical Energy Center. He also served as president of the Columbia International Relations Council and Association, and is a former student mentor for the Green Schools Alliance.
“I am excited to represent youth at COY and the UN COP on behalf of all the hardworking students that have come through the Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program. I hope to find new resources, organizations, and opportunities to share with everyone in the Wild Center network!”
Witter Swanson (he/him) grew up in the Adirondacks and is a graduate of Saranac Lake High School, where he first got involved with The Wild Center’s Youth Climate Program. Witter attended and helped organize multiple Youth Climate Summits and has served on the Youth Climate Program’s Advisory Board since 2017. Witter graduated Amherst College in 2021 with a degree in Political Science and Environmental Studies. Whilein college, Witter worked for two years as the Roosevelt Network’s Energy and Environment Policy Coordinator, where he helped advise college students on local environmental policy writing and implementation across the country. Witter currently lives in Boston and tracks New England renewable energy policy developments for Sustainable Energy Advantage, a renewable energy consulting company.
“The Youth Climate Program emphasizes local place-based action for our students, and COP 26 presents an opportunity to connect our large network of local action to a global scale. I am excited to represent the Wild Center in that process and to help communicate the events of COP 26 to our ever-growing community of young climate advocates. The need for the international community to take aggressive climate action grows stronger every year, and I can’t wait to witness and advocate for that action in every way possible.”
Emma Venarde (she/her) is a student at Brown University concentrating in environmental science on the environment and inequality track. She joined the Youth Climate Program’s Youth Advisory Board after creatingthe Bronx Youth Climate Summit, the first ever virtual Youth Climate Summit which was focused on environmental justice issues in the Bronx, N.Y. In addition, she has worked for the Environment, Peace, and Sustainability Program at the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity at Columbia University and interned at the Women’s Earth Alliance.
“We are the ones whose futures will be impacted by the decisions made by leaders today. I am nineteen years old and I believe that the presence of people my age at COP26 is critical because we know what an uncertain future feels like and can represent our generation as well as future generations. I also find the premise of global collaboration on climate action really inspiring and am very excited to learn more about climate policy on an international scale.”
Jen Kretser (she/her) is The Wild Center’s Director of Climate Initiatives. In her role, Jen leads the Center’s climate change engagement programs including the Youth Climate Program, which was highlighted by the former White House Office of Science and Technology; interpretive programs for visitors; green building education and design; and the farmers market and other climate related initiatives and partnerships. In 2015, she represented The Wild Center and the Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC) at the UN COP 21climate talks in Paris and is working to help seed youth climate summits around the world.
Stephanie Ratcliffe (she/her) has been the Executive Director of The Wild Center since June 2007. Stephanie played a leading role in the creation of the Center’s current exhibits and programs, including all of the interior live exhibits, multimedia presentations, Wild Walk, campus-wide interpretation and climate change initiatives. As an active participant and catalyst in the community, the museum has been a leader in driving climate change awareness and acting as a convener of climate change and green building conferences targeting regional and youth audiences in the Adirondack region. Stephanie is a passionate champion of urging science museums to be active participants in climate change education in their communities.
Karen K. Thomas (she/her), a lifelong nature advocate and enthusiast, is chair of The Wild Center’s Board of Trustees. An avid personal and community gardener, Karen focuses on native plants and ecological design; lectures and gives workshops on pollination and bird-friendly gardens. She is a board member and former chair of Audubon New York. Her non-profit work is inspired by the vital connection between healthy habitats, healthy wildlife and healthy communities and the need for climate education to empower youth. Karen earned a bachelor’s degree from Trinity College, where she also served on the Board of Trustees and Board of Fellows. She also received a certificate in sustainable garden design from the New York Botanical Garden. She live in Rye, N.Y., and the Adirondacks.