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Students gather in Keystone to solve big energy issues

CAITLIN ROW
summit daily news

KEYSTONE – To address critical issues facing energy innovation in the U.S., teenagers from across the country gathered Tuesday to kick off a weeklong 2010 National Youth Policy Summit at the Keystone Center. There, a panel of professional experts worked with 40 teenagers on energy issues affecting the nation over the next 25 years. The juniors and seniors are now tasked with creating policy solutions meeting current and future needs.

With laptops open and eyes trained on the expert panel, six tables of participating students dutifully took notes, asked questions – spanning eco-architecture to fossil-fuels industry innovations – and listened intently as the program began. They’ll spend the week engaging energy leaders, including representatives from the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Western Resource Advocates, Schlumberger, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, the Colorado State Senate and Innovative Solar.

“These are all college-bound kids, willing to work really hard for a week of their summers,” said Annemarie Fussell, director of the Youth Policy Summit at the Keystone Center.

And, according to the Keystone Center, this isn’t the first rodeo – it’s partnered with the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology since 2004 to conduct seven Youth Policy Summits, addressing topics like sustainable energy in transportation, energy efficiency, childhood and adolescent nutrition, obesity in America and sustainable fuels. The organization also works to prepare leaders of today and tomorrow with necessary intellectual and social skills to be used to resolve society’s most challenging energy, health, environmental and resource problems. The programs use scientific methods, negotiation, collaborative problem solving and critical thinking.

“We really want to inspire these youth to engage in solving the problems their communities are facing through leadership skills and considering economics, social equity and environmental concerns,” Fussell said.

Progressive energy solutions

This year, the group of young leaders are focusing not only on hashing out progressive energy solutions, but they’re also tasked with creating opportunities for new green jobs within the energy sector. Summit participants will negotiate consensus-based recommendations throughout the week and then share it with the State Board of Education, members of Congress, state legislatures, and business and NGO leaders in a public meeting Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Fussell also said the National Youth Policy Summit is the culmination of a spring semester project, where students conduct their own research on energy innovation.

“One of the main focuses of the program is to increase awareness about specific issues students are studying about energy, such as energy innovation and energy challenges,” Fussell said. “We want to provide them with a set of 21st century skills they can apply to their professional and academic careers in their future.”

At the opening event, students were also advised by experts on picking colleges, majors and careers. All eight panelists suggested students take time to explore their options – from visiting colleges to going on pre- and post-grad adventures. This, they said, would help educate them about the world and bring into focus what’s important to them.

“Follow your passions,” said state Senator Dan Gibbs. “If you’re passionate about it, nothing else matters.”

Panel advisors additionally noted that it’s important to have different generational perspectives when trying to solve broad problems, like energy issues currently facing the U.S.

For more information on the 2010 National Youth Policy Summit at the Keystone Science School, visit http://www.youthpolicysummit.org.

Caitlin Row can be reached at (970) 668-4633 or at crow@summitdaily.com.


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