Roanoke College students lobby on Capitol Hill

More than 30 RC students participated in Power Shift 2009, a youth climate movement.

For four days over spring break, over 9,000 young people from across the nation traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend Power Shift, a youth climate movement that urged government officials to have serious conversations about the importance of clean energy and new policy.

More than 30 of these attendees were Roanoke College students.

Many students at the event said that it was much more than just lobbying for clean energy; it was a chance to promote conversation about justice, equity and economic reform. This year's Power Shift was the largest-ever youth conference and lobby day on climate change in United States history.

Dr. Daniel Sarabia, associate professor of sociology, and approximately 30 students left campus Friday afternoon to participate in the historical youth movement. Their aim was to promote clean living, clean jobs and energy change in Virginia as well as in the entire country. Among the activities during the four day conference were career fairs, concerts and workshops on justice and policy. The final day was the traditional lobby day when youth are able to petition Congress about new strategy and policy.

Rebecca Woods '12 found that "Awakening the Dreamer," an event that helped participants reconnect with their individual concern for the world and its inhabitants, was her favorite part of the experience.

"Regardless of someone's interest in our environment, ‘Awakening the Dreamer' focused on each individual's personal interests and potential," Woods said. "The theme was to inspire a single change to evoke more to follow."

Another interesting aspect of Power Shift was the opportunity for students to meet with members of Congress and negotiate ways to improve the nation. Students gathered on the West Lawn of Capital Hill in order to discuss the various issues.

Students urged Congress to pass laws that will lower the nation's carbon footprint. They asked the U.S. government to cut carbon dramatically and immediately, to begin investing in a green economy, to start powering America's future with clean energy and to consider more seriously its role in leading the world toward a clean, equitable energy future.

"I talked to congressmen at the rally itself," Robin Forbes '10 said. "It was empowering that congress people met with us, even in the snow."

Forbes talked to a Congress member from New Mexico about shutting down coal mines, creating solar and alternate fuel plans, regulating pollution factories and closing companies that are more detrimental to the environment than efficient.

"It was empowering that there were so many students our age interested in the topic," Forbes said. "It was great to see so many of us wanting to change the world."

About the Author

Laura Scuffins '09 was an English major who interned in the Office of Public Relations. She was editor of the campus newspaper, The Brackety-Ack, and a member of Chi Omega sorority. Laura also was a member of Roanoke's track team for 3 years.

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