Excel Academy of Englewood Students Attend Historic Climate Forum at United Nations

 In Camelot Blog

Excel Academy of Englewood Students Attend Historic Climate Forum at United Nations
Ask young people about their biggest concerns for the future, and one of the issues they will mention is the Earth’s climate. Tens of thousands of students, across the country and around the world, poured into the streets last week to demand that governments do more to slow the warming of the atmosphere.

Three days prior to the protests, students, from Camelot Education’s Excel Academy of Englewood, engaged in discussions regarding the climate topic in a different way. They attended the First Annual Global Climate Restoration Forum, held at the United Nations in New York, on the first day of the UN General Assembly.
By their accounts, they experienced the trip of their young lifetimes.
The school’s executive director, Kevin Sweetland, said Taylon Bernard and Thomas Barton were chosen for the trip because they are actively engaged with school activities and have a deep interest in positively impacting the environment and community. But they never dreamed of being involved with an event of this magnitude.
While some look at the harm already done to the Earth’s climate and say it is too late to reverse the damage, experts and advocates at the conference launched a new carbon removal campaign that they contend can fix the planet and push the environment back into a balanced state by 2050.

The students not only attended the forum, held in one of the UN meeting rooms, but they sat in the front row. They were there to listen to the speeches at the three-hour forum before attending a private reception where they met some of the organizers and speakers.
Ricardo Waddy, director of programming and careers at Excel Academy of Englewood and one of the chaperons, said it was a fantastic experience.
“Just being able to be at the United Nations was special for the students – and for me,” Waddy said. “I had never been inside the UN. We expected to be sitting in the balcony of the General Assembly so sitting in the front was a big deal.”
The students learned only a week before the trip that donors (Eileen and Mike Hamra, and the Brian D. Robertson Memorial Foundation) had provided funding for the trip, and they’d be going.

“It was my first time being on a plane and being in New York. I had always heard about it,” Taylon said. “I was a little nervous at first, but the more we got around, the more I adapted. Manhattan is a lot faster paced than what we’re used to.”
Excel Academy of Englewood, an accelerated high school in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, helps students who have fallen behind earn their high school credits and graduate. They were one of only three schools in the Chicago Public Schools system to send students, two from each school. The trip was a two-day whirlwind. The students boarded a 6:00 a.m. flight to New York, went to their hotel, then to lunch, and then to the UN before 2:00 PM. The forum was followed by a reception into the evening, dinner, and then a visit to Times Square. They were up early the next morning for a debriefing with delegates and a discussion of next steps on what the Forum can do in the coming year to positively impact the climate.
The Excel Academy contingent managed to squeeze in a little downtown sightseeing before heading back to the airport for Chicago.

Amid all the excitement of the visit, the central message of the trip was saving the planet. Taylon said he and his classmate, Thomas, are bringing that message back home.
“The main point we took away is to pay attention to what’s going on,” he said. “I knew something about the climate but not as much as I know now. The Forum advocates really want youth to be more engaged in simple ways to help. The focus in our neighborhood is more on urgent issues like gang violence, gun violence, how to get to school safely, and how to stay out of the way of crossfires. That doesn’t mean we can’t pay attention to the climate. I think Earth Day should be more than one day a year. It should be multiple days and include meetings. That will allow people who want to learn how to help to make things better.
Waddy and Sweetland are already thinking about using information learned at the forum for a big Earth Day celebration next April 22 among all Camelot campuses in Chicago.
Taylon plans to go on to college to study graphic design and photography. But for now, he has pictures in his mind of what he just experienced.

“Being at the UN was like a new world for me, and it’s something I won’t forget,” he said. “To think that I was sitting in the same room that great leaders in history were in was a lot to take in.”

Related Article: Seniors at Camelot’s Excel Academy of Englewood March Against Violence

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