In 2017, intense wildfires burned near Oakland, California.
“And I remember distinctly young students coming out of classrooms with nose bleeds or complaining about headaches from the smoke,” says Lil Milagro Henriquez.
At the time, she worked at an elementary school primarily serving Black and Latino children, whose communities often suffer disproportionately during fires and other disasters.
“I asked them what they thought about what was happening,” she says. “And what they responded was that they were really terrified about climate change and that no one was talking to them about it. And the fact that no one was talking to them about it is what made it so scary.”
So to help young people feel more knowledgeable and less afraid, Henriquez created the Mycelium Youth Network.
The nonprofit sends educators to Bay Area schools. They conduct lessons about the impacts of global warming and ways to adapt.
And they discuss Indigenous traditions and approaches to caring for the Earth, which she says can help young people feel more connected to solutions.
“I think the point of education should really be how are we actively preparing young people and empowering young people for the world that they will inherit … and give them excitement and hope for what that can look like,” Henriquez says.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media