Congrats to our 2022 ESI summer intensive fellows!

ESI 2022 group photo
In addition to completing final projects and learning about local environmental issues through hands-on outings, this year's ESI summer intensive fellows networked with other groups throughout the Twin Cities. Here, our 2022 fellows met up with the Science Museum of Minnesota's Kitty Andersen Youth Science Center group.

In the fourth year of FMR's Environmental Stewardship Institute (ESI) summer intensive program — part of our career pathways program for high school-aged youth — our fellows focused on the guiding theme of biocultural diversity and rivers, highlighting the link between people, the natural environment and culture.

Growing in our fourth year

We were excited to be able to expand the summer intensive program this year. In 2021, we hired 12 youth, but in 2022 we grew, inviting 24 high school students to become our fellows. We were also able to hire one of our original ESI fellows, Naomi, to co-lead the program in a new seasonal role for college-age youth.

During the six-week program, these youth leaders toured Lock and Dam 1 (the Ford dam) to learn more about the case for and against dam removal, volunteered at an Indigenous-led habitat restoration at Wakáŋ Tipi/Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, explored art-making, seasonal food and food systems, and paddled the Mississippi.

ESI fellow Sarah Hu reflected, "ESI is unique in that it is very hands-on. I'm a person that learns by doing things, so I can still remember every detail of when we went to Wakáŋ Tipi to remove a displaced plant species (or invasive species), burdock. I can still recall how to do it and also the sweltering heat of that day."

Throughout the summer, fellows also worked on their own independent projects. Fellows worked in groups or by themselves, chose their topic and connected with mentors and professionals who specialize in their areas of interest. Fellows also decided what format their project would take — whether research-based, artistic, a piece of writing or a community-based workshop. Once again, we ended up with an array of unique and creative projects on a wide variety of topics, from biodiversity loss and accessible gardening to water pollution and environmental justice.

"ESI gave me a chance to practice skills such as public speaking, researching, time management, you name it! The program has given me, and every other young person in the program, a great opportunity to learn about the river and nature, and network with like-minded people."

—Li Le Kaplow, 2022 summer intensive ESI fellow

We are so grateful to our ESI fellows for bringing their enthusiasm and creativity to the program this summer. We hope you learn from and feel inspired by this sampling of their independent projects. (Note: Opinions expressed in projects are those of the program participant and do not necessarily represent those of FMR.)

2022 ESI summer intensive fellows' final projects
Making gardening accessible for everyone

Mitali created an informational video about making gardening and community gardens more accessible.

A local dive into environmental justice

Stacy, Margaret and Norijah explored environmental racism in three local case studies: North Minneapolis air quality, East Phillips Neighborhood Urban Farm, and Enbridge Lines 3 & 5.

Invasive species scavenger hunt

Li Le Kaplow, Jasmine Jara and Sarah Hu created a scavenger hunt for youth and their families to learn more about invasive species.

Agriculture and the Upper Mississippi

Joseph and Peter researched the impact of agriculture on water quality and what we can do about pollution from excess fertilizers.

What is the Upper Harbor Terminal Project?

Lucy Keenan created an infographic explaining the redevelopment project at North Minneapolis's Upper Harbor Terminal

A look at Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife)

Amani Armstrong-Morrow researched the impacts of purple loosestrife, an invasive plant here in Minnesota, and offered solutions for slowing its spread.

PFAS In Minnesota and Impacts on East Metro Drinking Water

Alecia Jendro researched the history of 3M's PFAS disposal in the East Metro, the resulting health and environmental impacts, and what's being done about it now.

Informational zebra mussel workshop for kids

Abby Peters, Anika Hanson and Miranda Micko created an interactive educational opportunity for fourth and fifth graders to learn about zebra mussels and their effects on water quality.

The impact of street salt on our environment

Hanna Bjerkness and Harper Glaeser Allen conducted a survey to find out what their community knew about road salt pollution, then created an infographic to help them learn more.

The nitrogen cycle and how it affects different organisms

Spencer created a video exploring the nitrogen cycle and the health of aquariums and how that compares to the Mississippi River.

Join us

We created the Environmental Stewardship Institute to help close the opportunity gap for BIPOC and underrepresented communities in the environmental field. Youth leadership is a key part of our approach to equity and a long-term approach to diversifying the environmental sector. We hold a summer intensive program and a school-year youth advisory council.

Through ESI, our goal is to engage with the natural world, inspire advocacy, educate ourselves and others on environmental issues, discuss ways to support QT BIPOC youth and communities amid environmental racism, decolonize together, practice leadership and collaborate with the community to combat the problems facing the environment and our livelihoods. 

FMR's Environmental Stewardship Institute is part of our larger Stewardship & Education program. Check out our other opportunities for youth and for all ages to get involved with FMR.

Thank you to Butler Foundation, Capitol Region Watershed District, HB Fuller, Protolabs, Shavlik Family Foundation, 3M, Xcel Energy and donors like you for making our ESI program possible.

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