Youth Leadership Intitiative summit explores sustainability

The Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative (MVYLI) held its ninth annual Youth Leadership Summit for Sustainable Development last week. The summit concluded with a graduation ceremony Friday at a private home overlooking Lake Tashmoo in Vineyard Haven.

A group of 30 high school aged students — 24 from Martha’s Vineyard, six from Hawaii, and two former members of the initiative from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques — spent the week learning about sustainable businesses on the Island and worked with each other to help establish personal goals.

Program graduates received a framed diploma and a copy of, “Stone Soup for the World: Life-Changing Stories of Everyday Heroes” by Marianne Larned, MVYLI executive director. Ms. Larned and Marsha Reeves-Jews, president of the Stone Soup Leadership Institute’s (SSLI) board of directors, presented the awards. MVYLI is a sponsored by the SSLI.

The summit’s goal is to inspire, educate, and empower young people to take the initiative in their lives and on their island, according to Ms. Larned.

“The group was encouraged to envision their personal, professional, Island, and planetary goals,” Ms. Larned said in a telephone call. The attendees began the summit on June 22 on Lucy Vincent Beach in Chilmark to acclimate and get to know each other and the Vineyard.

To assist in reaching these goals the summit focused on sustainable living on the Vineyard, according to Ms. Larned. The group spent most of the week on a “sustainable Vineyard tour” to learn first-hand about green projects on the Island.

For example, Keith Wilda, the new manager of the Island Grown Initiative’s Thimble Farm, gave the group a tour of the farm. Richard Saltzberg, president of the Eliakim’s Way Housing Association, an affordable housing and energy efficient subdivision in West Tisbury, explained how energy efficiency is built into their homes. Cronig’s Market owner Steve Bernier hosted the group and described the solar arrays that cover part of the market’s parking lot.

A day spent on Chappaquiddick observing the project to move a massive house back from the edge of an eroding coastal bank stimulated a conversation on the effects of building in environmentally sensitive areas, Ms. Larned said.

The summit was the culmination of a year of projects and meetings held by members of the leadership initiative in their own communities. The Vineyard group met weekly at the Oak Bluffs library through most of the year to discuss goals, make contacts, and complete projects. Some members worked on applying for college scholarships. Another project was to plan the summit, a project the Vineyard group spent three months putting together.

Another MVYLI project was designed to help members develop a better understanding of jobs and professions that might interest them through a program of job shadowing.

Mary Ollen, of Vineyard Haven, a senior at MVRHS, said her favorite experience was shadowing a legislative aid of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren at her Boston office. “Senator Warren was not in the office while I was there, but I hope she will be there when I go back next year,” she said. “I plan to be senator.”

Isabella Hazell-El-Deiry, a recent MVRHS graduate who will be attending Howard University in the fall, said that she spent a week working in the office of the president of the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. Her family is originally from St. Vincent.

MVRHS sophomore Lucie Soares, from West Tisbury, said that the week-long summit has given her a new focus on sustainability. “I learned how I can take part in helping my island become sustainable.”

Ms. Larned said the MVYLI will share their vision for a sustainable Island at the annual Walter Cronkite Awards Ceremony, which honors one young person and one adult who have utilized media to make a positive impact in the areas of education or sustainability. It takes place on August 8, at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown.