Training Florida’s Next Generation of Climate Leaders

Guest post by NWF Campus Ecology Fellow, Shaza Hussein

As an NWF Campus Ecology Fellow at the University of South Florida in Tampa, my campaign goal is to bring the Divestment/Reinvestment Movement to the “Dirty South” in order to end the expansion of unjust and polluting energy utilities.  As all campaigns do, mine has grown and developed over time, and I have realized what my campus needed was the sound leadership skills and organizing training necessary for a long-term, sustainable Divestment Campaign. I am a senior leader on campus and thought this would be a plausible and useful expenditure of my time.

I am also a rising leader in a statewide coalition that unites Florida youth working on campuses and in the community for climate justice and clean energy, Florida Youth for Environmental Sustainability (FL YES). As a State Lead for the organization I recruited students in the Tampa Bay region to attend Power Shift 2013 in Pittsburg, PA and gain valuable skills in environmental issues, organizing, and justice.

The USF Power Shift team rallying to being an end to dirty coal! Florida carried the THIRD largest state convergence at Power Shift 2013.
The USF Power Shift team rallying to being an end to dirty coal! Florida carried the THIRD largest state convergence at Power Shift 2013.
Upon returning from Power Shift I was nominated and elected Co-Chair of the statewide network. Honored and humbled, I put my feelers out. My Co-Chair and I recruited a committee to help plan the next big step for our coalition and for my campaign to build leadership across my campus and state: The FL YES Leadership Summit. This annual convergence of Florida youth has been happening for five years, and after attending for two years and leading trainings there during the last year, I was excited to lead and plan the summit for 2014.

My awesome team helped to make this summit one of the largest and the first entirely student organized FL YES conference. We had nearly a dozen student leaders conducting trainings, workshops, and sessions for over 50 youth activists from across Florida. This summit also boasted seven guest speakers from across the state and nation, who motivated and captured the audience with their green energy solutions, enlightening trainings, and inspiring fellowship and leadership programs. Some highlighted speakers include Joe Solomon, Social Media guru from the Energy Action Coalition and co-founder of Green Memes – which produced the ultimate social media organizing guide – and Eriqah Foreman-Williams, NWF’s very own “Wonder Woman” based in Atlanta, who spoke about her organizing with the Campus Ecology Program and the EcoLeaders Initiative.

We closed the summit by noting the impact made on these young leaders as we watched them organize a solidarity action for the West Virginia Water Crisis [to donate to folks still struggling click here!].  And we are super pumped to help bring their ideas to the statewide agenda and enable their initiatives to materialize and mature on their campuses and in their communities.

Florida Stands with West Virginia! #WVWaterCrisis
Florida Stands with West Virginia! #WVWaterCrisis
As I move into the second half of this fellowship I am excited to see where future leadership development opportunities may take me. I hope to continue to empower students at my university and across Florida to take real and tangible climate actions against dirty, unjust, and polluting utilities. I believe that the most formative and essential portion of this struggle is creating strong, enduring, caring, inclusive and diverse leaders who have the power to continue the fight.

About the author

Shaza HusseinShaza Hussein is a current NWF Campus Ecology Fellow and is a senior at University of South Florida double majoring in Environmental Policy and Chemistry. Shaza’s NWF Fellowship is focused around divestment from fossil fuel companies at the University of South Florida with the aim to stop the expansion of dirty energy through transparency, collaboration, and innovative thinking while engaging citizens, community members, and colleagues to question and influence university policy through the demand for socially responsible investing. Shaza is the first and only Morris K. Udall Undergraduate Scholar at USF recognized for their work in environmental leadership and is the founder and president of EcoMentors, a mentorship program that pairs high achieving university juniors and seniors with local high school students to conduct environmental research projects. Shaza has also worked extensively with the Southern Energy Network (SEN) as the USF Delegate and Power Vote Fellow as well as trainer, facilitator, and organizer on campus and statewide conferences.