Home Youth empowerment Internship during climate crises: new MacNest program

Internship during climate crises: new MacNest program


When CJ Denney ’23 began his summer internship at Minneapolis Climate Action, an environmental policy and community-based nonprofit, he was unsure at first what his role would be. Soon, however, Denney said he found himself at the heart of community outreach work, hosting focus groups on environmental injustices and helping plan community events.

Denney was one of four students who participated in the MacNest Climate Justice Internship Program, a new collaboration between the Office of Entrepreneurship and the Office of Sustainability, created as an extension of the MacNest Summer Internship Program. , which is five years old. The Climate Justice Internship Program offers students a stipend of $ 5,500 and places them in local organizations with environmental equity missions.

Donors Dr Margaret Rick ’64 and Dr Paul Rick ’64 both inspired and funded the Climate Justice Internship Program. Alumni who first met as college students, Margaret and Paul worked closely with Acting Director of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Jody Emmings and Director of Sustainability Christie Manning to design a internship program that would have a two-pronged positive impact.

“We wanted to create a program that would increase awareness and action on climate change involving students,” the Ricks wrote in an email to The weekly Mac. “In addition, funding for climate justice internships has enabled us to promote student self-discovery and personal advancement. ”

The Ricks have set up funding for the MacNest Climate Justice Internship Program which will be offered over the next two summers and will allow a cohort of four participating students each year.

While the Office of Sustainability and the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Innovation have contributed to a number of joint projects such as the MacSHARE Student Food Co-operative Initiative and Skills Sharing Days in the Work Idea Lab, the climate justice internship program is the first formal collaborative project. between offices. According to Manning, the partnership of the two offices is only one of the links created by the program.

“MacNest’s climate justice internships built new, lasting relationships – between students and their mentors / supervisors, between students and a new part of the Twin Cities (three of the organizations were located in North Minneapolis), between [the Department of Entrepreneurship and Innovation] and the [Sustainability Office], between our campus and these organizations, ”Manning wrote in an email to The weekly Mac.

Emmings said the Office of Sustainability offers unique expertise in climate justice that fits well with his own department’s innovative vision.

“Entrepreneurship is a methodology for working on issues and environmental and climate justice is at the heart of many Macalesters, which matters to Macalester students, said Emmings. “It really is a natural partnership.

Part of Denney’s work with Minneapolis Climate Action was to reduce barriers to climate change education. He helped the nonprofit organize an event for children in the Whittier Park area of ​​Minneapolis to have informal conversations about climate change and environmental protection. In addition, he has contributed to a community solar garden program that provides affordable solar power to households without credit or minimum income.

“This was a big deal because many companies that create solar power require that you have all of these eligibility requirements,” Denney said. “A lot of people just can’t meet them; these are usually the wealthy white communities.

According to Denney, her internship experience underscored how central the community is to successful climate justice work.

“People say it takes a village to raise a child, but in terms of the environmental justice movement, it takes a village to support this movement and uplift and support each other,” Denney said. “It’s really about working together to achieve a goal that’s fair for everyone and getting all types of people and everyone involved in the conversation. “

Student participant Karsten Beling ’22 interned at Minnesota Renewable Now, a non-profit organization aimed at expanding access to renewable energy. He worked directly under Founder and Minneapolis City Council Candidate Kristel Porter. Beling said his duties took different forms depending on where he was needed most, from grant applications to event planning – an experience he believes is characteristic of nonprofit work.

“It’s very chaotic day to day,” Beling said. “It’s a bit like running a small business.

Beling has experience in climate activism work as a co-founder of a Sunrise Hub (community organization units of the national environmental organization Sunrise Movement) in Walla Walla, Wash., Prior to move to Macalester last fall. At Minnesota Renewable Now, Beling said he has witnessed Porter’s commitment to earning the trust of communities in Minneapolis.

“Kristel [Porter] is from North Minneapolis and she knows everyone who walks the streets… I think when it comes to any kind of climate justice or social justice work within the dominant communities of BIPOC, they need to know a face or know the person – how Kristel described it to me, they have to know you before they can trust you, which of course makes sense, ”Beling said.

According to Beling, his internship with Porter gave him a new perspective on environmental justice work.

“In fact, seeing her do that just reminded me of how sensitive and careful you have to be to keep the story surrounding racism and environmental work in mind,” Beling said. “Relational organization is, I think, the keystone of this work. It just put me in perspective as to where I stand in this movement.

Beling is from Park City, Utah, where a wildfire last summer forced many people, including her family, to evacuate. He remembered having to tell his family what belongings he wanted them to bring with them and hearing that the firefighters painted the front of his house to mark it empty so they didn’t have to look for items. body if it burned.

“Fortunately my family had a place to go, but there were other people in my community who didn’t have one,” Belling said.

Beling cites an increase in climatic disasters such as wildfires in his hometown and Hurricane Ida in late August in the southern United States as evidence of growing environmental threats to vulnerable populations and as a motivation for his work in support. of climate justice.

“I think [climate refugees] are increasingly becoming a reality, ”Beling said. “This is going to happen more and we need to build resilience in communities like North Minneapolis that are particularly vulnerable so that they can be better equipped to deal with these disasters. “

Katie Chin ’22 interned at TARE Market, a zero waste company based in South Minneapolis that sells environmentally friendly housewares, cosmetics, and bulk food and liquids. Chin said his tasks are to make sustainable products accessible to low-income communities in Minneapolis. She has worked with stores across town to bring zero waste beauty products to their shelves and to their customers.

Chin told him that climate justice is deeply linked to racial justice. She referred to Minneapolis’ own waste management system, which is believed to disproportionately harm communities of color, as an example of the link between the causes.

“Climate justice is a really important step in the fight against climate change and racial inequalities,” Chin said.

According to Chin, witnessing community organizers during his internship made him understand the importance of local activism in a new way.

“Climate justice is a difficult thing to tackle because the problem is so important and it sometimes seems overwhelming,” Chin said. “But just seeing the little efforts people make every day and also seeing how those add up into a larger community of climate justice, environmental activism – that was really inspiring to me.”

The fourth student participating in the Climate Justice Internship Program, Ahmed Abdalla Ahmed ’23 worked with the Fortune Relief and Youth Empowerment Organization (FRAYEO), a refugee and immigrant-led group serving families in Africa from l ‘East in Minnesota. Ahmed is spending the semester studying abroad in the Netherlands and was not available for comment.

Today, Denney works with the Clean Energy Resources teams at the Great Plains Institute, where he has previously been able to use his nonprofit connections and provide grant funding opportunities to smaller organizations. Chin is an intern at the Immigrant Law Center in Minnesota, a non-profit organization providing immigrant legal services as well as advocacy work, where she said she hoped to harness the settlement skills of relationships she had acquired at the TARE market. Beling is interning with the Ashoka Foundation, an organization providing funding to global ‘change makers’ as part of the environmental leadership internship of her major in environmental studies. He hopes to use storytelling to share the experiences of those affected by climate change to a wider audience.

Thinking back to her summer internship experience, Denney recognized that working with a small nonprofit organization to make a difference in her community was often lacking in structure.

“You can plan, plan, plan whatever you want, but when it comes to setting up programs and getting people to interact and be a part of your thing, it always turns out differently,” Denney said. “But the positive side of that is… you can just let it flow and sometimes it turns out a lot better than it would have been if everything had gone as planned.”