My name is Priyanka Zylstra, I am a senior at South High School. I went into Power Shift with the expectation to be “refueled” and inspired, reminded why I am part of the environmental movement. I thought I could narrow down my focus to specific issues and get more involved with projects focusing on them. I found my Power Shift experience to be so much more than I had imagined. Many of the speakers filled me with so much passion, empowerment, and energy. It was more than inspiring, it was provoking. I have never been challenged to think critically like I have at Power Shift.
It was more than inspiring, it was provoking. I have never been challenged to think critically like I have at Power Shift.
In that weekend, I learned more than I have learned in a year of public school. I began to question the norms society has enforced upon me and to explore what needs to change. Hearing the stories of people living on the frontlines of these environmental issues shocked me. I never knew people in America were currently living in such terrible conditions. I didn’t realize people timed their showers because the water was so contaminated, that some bathed in the dark to avoid any chance of a spark meeting the methane now in the water of fracking communities. I joined the movement to create a better future, but at Power Shift I realized that we need to fix the present so much more that the future I had imagined.
Power Shift changed my perspective on race, identity, privilege, and rights.
Power Shift changed my perspective on race, identity, privilege, and rights. There is so much anger from communities who are suffering from fracking, coal, tar sands, and nuclear energy. I also saw guilt from individuals in healthy communities that are able to exercise their right to a healthy home and a quality environment. America has worked hard to silence the voices of the oppressed. We still refuse to acknowledge the injustices committed against Native Americans, argue that those living in poverty simple “do not work hard enough”, and pretend our democratic republic is working to benefit the American people. My life goal is to empower youth in oppressed communities. Yet, this wont be possible without the help of my generation. We truly do need to shift the power.
So I have one request for all of you.
So I have one request for all of you. Don’t just complain about the things that make you mad, that piss you off, about America or our society. Go and do something about it. If we shift away from corporate interests, stop silencing communities, and take action to make the world one we want to live in, we will have the future we need.
Priyanka attended Power Shift along with 40 other high school students from Twin Cities Metro area, as part of the Will Steger Foundation’s Youth Environmental Activists Minnesota (YEA! MN) delegation. A core program of the Will Steger Foundation, YEA! MN supports a network of high school environmental clubs working together across the Twin Cities Metro Area to empower student leadership on climate change solutions at home, at school, and in the wider community. Priyanka is a member of the YEA! MN Steering Committee as well as member of the Sierra Student Coalition and was instrumental in recruiting high school students to participate in Power Shift, fundraising for the delegation, and navigating logistics on transportation and lodging for the conference site in Pittsburgh.