Sierra Club’s Summer of Youth

By Olivia Cashman, Development and Communications Intern

It’s a bright, warm summer day in the middle of August with temperatures in the high seventies. There are a few wispy clouds floating in the sky, and tree leaves sway from a light breeze. People casually stroll by on Franklin Avenue, but inside the North Star Chapter office, everyone is hard at work protecting Minnesota’s environment.

In addition to the wonderful Sierra Club staff, the office is filled with motivated youth interns who have spent the summer advocating for a cleaner, more sustainable environment. Three students from South High School in Minneapolis, Priyanka Zylstra, Kellie Winchell, and Tahlia Simon, are part of the Sierra Student Coalition, which trains and empowers youth to campaign and develops young environmental leaders. They are joined by college students Amanda Tussing, Miranda Adams, Emma Russ, Joram Kluge, and Willy Miley, all working together on the Beyond Coal Campaign with a goal to replace 2 boilers at the Sherco coal plant with clean, renewable energy.


These emerging youth leaders organize and execute events, such as “Make a Splash” and Rondo Days, to reach out to the community via educational activities and ask citizens to take action for clean energy.  Priyanka Zylstra reflects on her internship at the North Star Chapter and the “amazing connections with brilliant minds that share the same vision for a future with clean energy” that she has made throughout the summer. Other students support the Chapter’s transportation, forests and mining campaigns — building support for transit and bicycling infrastructure, and protections for our forests, wildlife and waters.

Murat Altun and I, both students at the University of Minnesota, are communication and development interns, working to connect with Sierra Club members, donors, and volunteers. This summer, we have worked on various projects such as research and organizing volunteer events, but one project Murat and I have both thoroughly enjoyed is interviewing volunteer leaders to learn about their involvement with the Sierra Club and writing volunteer profiles.


All of the students I intern with here at the North Star Chapter are energetic, creative, and most of all, determined to lead Minnesota to a future of clean energy, air, and water. Instead of spending the summer hanging out at the pool, they are working toward a goal, motivated by the hope for a more sustainable environment.

They are having a blast doing it, too, by strolling down Franklin Avenue to Seward Co-Op for lunch, cooling down with ice cream across the street at Franklin Freeze, or jamming out to music in the office when the workload gets heavy. Youth play such an essential role in climate change solutions, and the Sierra Club interns are making sure they are doing their part this summer! I couldn’t agree more with intern Priyanka Zylstra as she concludes that her time with the North Star Chapter has “equipped her with incredible skills that help engage the community in current issues and bring people together”.

Olivia Cashman is a Development and Communications Intern with the Sierra Club North Star Chapter.


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