This story was originally written for the Powering a Brighter Future in Pennsylvania; a 2022 report on solar at Pennsylvania K-12 schools.
Youth climate activists across Pittsburgh are speaking up and asking their school districts to take a stand in the fight against climate change. While this region has a long history of coal and natural gas production, these young people are making a new name for Pittsburgh as a hub for youth climate action. In 2019, Woodland Hills School District became the first in Pennsylvania to pass a school board resolution on climate change. In 2021, the district received a national award from the Green Schools National Network and the Center for Green Schools for its successful climate initiatives.
The growing student-led climate movement has been supported by the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit Communitopia, whose mission is to provide transformative climate change education that develops youth leaders and advances equitable solutions in environmental justice communities. Margeaux Everhart, an eighth-grade teacher at Woodland Hills Junior High School, was inspired to help start a youth climate action team during a workshop hosted by Communitopia. Her class organized a campaign calling on the Woodland Hills School Board to pass a climate change resolution. These eighth graders sent 27 personalized letters and spoke at school board meetings to encourage their leaders to take climate action.
We believe supporting the teaching of climate change in schools and facilitating youth activism are important ways to combat climate change on a community level, especially since policies put in place today will impact us the most in the future.
– Katie Green, Student at Woodland Hills Jr./Sr. High School and Member of Woodland Hills Climate Action Team
The school board unanimously adopted a resolution that acknowledges climate change as a serious concern for this generation and commits to the formation of a new multistakeholder Climate Action Committee to guide the district in moving forward on climate protection efforts and engage every part of the school community. In September 2021, Woodland Hills School District released its action plan, which includes ambitious goals to have zero carbon emissions, to have all educators teaching a climate action unit, and to have 80% of the student population engaged in climate advocacy by the year 2050. The Climate Action Committee is working on its next steps to go solar on its school buildings and make progress in meeting its emission reduction goals.