This past year, over 24 million college-aged students took part in the presidential election. These same young people have the opportunity to continue making a difference at an upcoming conference called Power Shift ’09.
The conference addresses issues involving energy and climate and will be taking place in Washington, D.C from Feb. 27 – March 2. Of the 10,000 students attending nationwide, 32 will be from Northern.
Brandon Knight, the coordinator for the Michigan chapter of Power Shift, said that the Power Shift ’09 lobby day will be the largest focusing on environment and energy in the history of the country.
“We hope to show the world that there are 10,000 young people from the United States who see clean energy and energy efficiency as the new economy,” said Knight. He added that 400 students attending are from Michigan.
While there, students will attend workshops, panels, and speeches on a wide variety of topics related to energy and climate. They will also have the opportunity to attend a career fair and meet other students from around the country.
On the final day, Power Shift participants will lobby local representatives, using training acquired over the course of the week. After this, students will attend a rally to call attention to the goals of the conference.
Power Shift has seen a more diverse body of students involved in the program this year, particularly engineering and business students, Knight said. These students are interested in a wide range of topics addressed by the conference, including green business and the technical side of wind power and solar energy.
Junior Callie Youngman is a Secondary Education Major and is working to coordinate registration, transportation and recruitment for NMU’s participation in Power Shift ’09. She also leads the Students for Sustainable Living club, which “seek(s) to pursue and promote practices of sustainability on a personal level,” according to their student organization page on NMU’s Web site.
Youngman is excited about attending the conference because it offers students more information about energy efficiency and the reality of new energy sources in everyday life.
“I think it’s really important for us, especially during these times in our lives, to have experiences where we get outside of ourselves and see what’s going on in the rest of the country,” said Youngman.
Workshops at Power Shift ’09 are on topics such as dismantling oppression, environmental justice, international impacts, organizing, policy and strategy. Speakers range from Van Jones, author of The Green Collar Economy, to Congressman Edward Markey.
Power Shift ’09 also offers a job fair giving students the opportunity to speak with potential employers.
“A lot of Michigan students actually got jobs out of the first Power Shift at the job fair,” said Knight. “It’s a great way to get your foot in the door.”
Knight said that he hoped students would come back with concrete campaigning, leadership, media and other technical skills necessary to run their own local clean energy campaigns. He also said that students involved will be able to take what they learned from the conference and integrate it into their everyday lives.
“I hope that people will come back empowered,” said Knight. “That they will know they have the right to advocate for things they believe in.”