National Wildlife Federation recently joined four NWF Youth Ambassadors from across the country at the Disney Youth Conservation Summit. The kids were recognized, along with 100 other youth, for their work to promote conversation and protect nature. Collected below are some of their thoughts on attending the celebration, a slideshow of photos, and some reflections by family and chaperones. 

On being an NWF Youth Ambassador

Malcolm Barnard

Attending the Disney Kids and Nature celebration was one of the best times of my life. Two great opportunities from the celebration were really amazing for me. The first was the opportunity to speak in front of the heads of leading conservation organizations, and the second was meeting a lot of very important people that work with conservation and the environment. The speech was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because it gave me the chance to give my message to a huge audience. The other amazing opportunity was the chance to meet incredible people who have careers that I would love to pursue. I was able to meet Larry Schweiger, Disney leaders, and even Dr. Jane Goodall. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Joe Rohde, the Chief Imagineer for Disney, and Jackie Ogden, Director of the Animal Kingdom Park. Joe spoke to me about the importance of making opposition strengthen you and your goals and enabling you to make positive changes to make your project stronger. I was really happy to talk to him about the NWF demonstration garden at the Animal Kingdom. I also was able to have one-on-one conversations with Tony DeRose, head researcher for Pixar, and Starr Long, award winning game programmer and Disney Producer.

Meeting the other kids at the summit was a great inspiration. I was able to learn what they are doing in their community, which was very amazing as youth are doing such great things for the environment. For example, one of the kids, Eric Babb, organized an invasive plant removal for his community. Since I try to initiate empowerment in youth in my community, the 100 youth participants showed me the importance of becoming empowered at a young age. This experience makes me want to try to get all of the youth of Johns Creek involved in the community. It was also great to meet the other NWF youth representatives and hear about what they are doing in their communities. Imagine what a difference would be made if all of the youth in our country became empowered and were doing things like the kids at the conference.

The summit was a great educational experience. I developed many new skills including:

  1. Ways to brainstorm and set goals (in a way I never did before) towards what you want to get accomplished.
  2. To make negative feedback a positive force toward improvement.
  3. Have a greater sense and need for flexibility as requirements constantly change while you are working on a project.
  4. Involve more youth in volunteer opportunities – I plan to implement this in the Johns Creek community.

Attending the Disney Kids and Nature Celebration was an inspirational experience that strengthened my love of stewarding conservation programs. Thank you so much for the inspiring opportunity to be a NWF Youth Ambassador for this great event.

Renee Whalawitsa

Reneee provided the following photos and captions:

From the Chaperones

Margaret Lee – Grandmother of Renee Whalawitsa

It was an awesome time!  My granddaughter, Renee E. Whalawitsa, and I invited people to watch the movie, Chimpanzee starting today.  They are amazed when we tell them we were at the premiere with Jane Goodall!  I (Margaret) had my picture taken with her but photo is poor quality but I am proud of this unforgettable moment.  She asked me to contact her “Roots and Shoots.”  Renee and I are working on a display for her school which will be presented at my work also.  We will entitle Renee’s project, “Disney Loves Mother Earth.”  We will wear our t-shirts.  Nature is very in line with our culture.  Thank you very much (Ahehee).

Lesa Redhouse – Mother of Daveishena Redhouse

The greatest highlight for me was getting to take a flight with my daughter to a place that would make a big difference in our lives. We have never flown on a plane so just planning to the days of departure was exciting for the both of us.  I enjoyed the speeches we had on Saturday and watching my daughter get inspired by the employees of Disney, this showed my daughter and me anything is possible especially if you have the passion for nature. I believe my daughter learned a lot because when we got home she told everyone that would listen that not only was she saving the planet there were others kids out in the world that were too and asked family and friends to please consider recycling and taking care of mother earth. My daughter inspired her aunts and uncles to take their kids out on nature walks and enjoy long talks, along with listening to their kids. Her friends at school were so excited for her. Just seeing my daughter talking about our experience along with the purpose of the trip is the greatest inspiration ever.

The inspirational moment for me was when I got to see my daughter, Daveishena take the stage on Saturday and be able to talk about their group project and at the end her team won. She told me later she couldn’t believe she got her team to win, and teamwork did make a difference. I forgot the gentleman’s name but he was the one as a kid that got to stop child labor and made a big difference. This speech was a great moment because Daveishena has a thing about child labor. For her, just knowing that someone had made a difference for kids was satisfying enough–to know that as kids they make a difference if you put some effort into it and just ask for help for the right people. The one thing I took with me from this trip is that just listening to our kids makes a tremendous difference, taking our nature drive/walks/strolls or just sitting out on the desert hilltop on our reservation is something that people all over the world do.

We thank you so much for inviting us to your Youth Summit and we will continue to take what we learned to our local chapter to start small by cleaning up near parks and river banks where we see kids playing so they can enjoy litter free nature. We have started a cleaning crew near our home for the litter problem and we also decided to do this again in the summer.

Margie Jenkins – Chaperone for Brandon Dykes

The most inspirational moments were just being there to experience the Disney family and to see the movie Chimpanzee.  The ENTIRE trip was magical beyond belief and inspirational. The highlight of the trip was going to ANIMAL Kingdom because I was able to see, smell and experience the animals.