Brookfield Teens Relaunch Youth Sustainability Council “To Make A Difference In Our City”

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BROOKFIELD – A team of teenagers from Brookfield are trying to make their hometown a better and more sustainable place to live.

Brookfield High School’s five seniors – Alexa Dattner, Maahi Dhote, Gregory Friedman, Shruti Kelkar and Jackson Sharpe – came together last summer to revive the Brookfield Sustainability Youth Council. Community development specialist Greg Dembowski acts as the group’s advisor, while the teens share the title of “co-chair”.

The Board of Selectmen officially recognized the group at a meeting on Monday where several students presented their ideas.

“We really want to make a difference in our city,” said Alexa Dattner, a senior who led the renaissance of the council.

Dattner hopes to study environmental science in college and eventually work for government or corporate sustainability upon graduation. She’s been committed to sustainability since a trip to Alaska the summer before the first year she saw the impact of climate change firsthand.

After launching the high school environmental club last year, Dattner wanted to do more and reached out to several other students to see if they would be interested in the advice.

The group meets three times a week for two hours at a time, plus additional work in parallel. Dembowski said he had been rather passive and was “so impressed with the maturity, leadership and dedication” the students showed.

When not busy filling out college admission applications or attending sporting practices, group members work hard to help their city achieve special certification through the state’s SustainableCT initiative. – a voluntary certification program which encourages sustainable practices.

Thanks to SustainableCT, municipalities can choose from a menu of actions and earn points towards certification levels. Certification lasts three years.

Sustainability extends beyond environmental issues to include issues such as housing, light pollution and land use. Sharpe and Dhote came to the council with a background in human rights, demonstrating the intersectionality of the issue.

Brookfield first joined the program in 2018.

In 2019, the former youth council deposited city assets with the state for “bronze” status. Now, the city must collect 400 “points” and meet three equity goals to reach the money, which the council aims to achieve by April 2022.

Reach for the money

The group is already hard at work cataloging the city’s existing assets and filing documents to see how many “points” the city already has. After initial asset documentation and gap analysis, they will provide further recommendations to get more points.

Points can be earned through actions in 13 different categories. These actions can be simple or longer term, ranging from organizing sustainable development events to developing a homelessness prevention campaign, including composting and recycling.

Jackson Sharpe, who filed the documents on the state’s website, has high hopes for Brookfield. Based on what he sees, he believes that a concentrated push from the council could lead to big benefits for the city.

“I think we could be ranked as the most sustainable city in Connecticut which would be such a great legacy to leave,” he said.

Maahi Dhote said they had already started talking to different city department heads about existing practices and had good conversations with community partners.

“This is a very energetic and enthusiastic group of seniors who have a passion to do something that they feel is important for the city and its future, so in that regard I am completely behind what they are doing. Dembowski said.

The students said city leaders have been receptive to their ideas and plans so far.

“Everyone has been amazing. I feel like they really listen to us and want to cooperate with us, ”said Dattner. “People want to take a step forward because I think a lot of people realize that it is necessary and that climate change is a real threat.”

Sustainability beyond certification

It was important for the elderly that the group itself was sustainable. They want him to lay the groundwork for a permanent council.

The goal is to get younger students and other members of the community to continue the work long after they’ve packed their bags and headed to college. By eventually creating sub-committees and task forces, the board hopes their legacy will endure and continue to thrive.

“It’s our baby at this point because we’ve kind of started this, and we’re hoping to work and improve it,” Dattner said.

The young people of Brookfield are not alone in their quest for meaningful and lasting environmental change.

In recent years, Gen Z has taken a strong stand against climate change and sustainable practices, asking adults to pay attention to what’s going on. From school strikes to social media campaigns, young people are asking people to reconsider what it means to live sustainably.

“We are the young generation and we will have to face the consequences when we are older,” said Dattner.

“This is our home,” Dhote added. “I want to do my part. “

Next year at university, Sharpe dreams of a double major in public policy and environmental science, while pursuing a pre-medical course. But after that, he wants to come back to Brookfield.

“I want to raise my children here,” he said. “I want to have a bright future for my children here at Brookfield. “


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