Elise Pierson '24 discovered her passion for climate justice right in her hometown over six years ago. In the time since, she's attended multiple climate summits across New York State and served as a youth ambassador to the United Nations global climate conference.
Now, she's using her experiences to help inspire the next generation of climate leaders. Over the summer, she served as a Youth Climate Fellow at The Wild Center, a natural history museum and education center in the heart of the Adirondacks.
Elise shared some of her experiences at The Wild Center, and what she learned about herself and her role in the climate movement.
Note: some responses have been edited for length.
Elise Pierson '24
Hometown: Wilmington, New York
Internship: Youth Climate Fellow at The Wild Center in Tupper Lake, New York
What is an average day at the Wild Center like for you?
I start the day with a short walk from the intern housing to The Wild Center on a little trail by the Raquette River. Once I get to the office, I start working on tasks such as planning our two climate camps, making slide decks, or working on our new Climate Smart Communities (CSC) Guide. A few times a week I interact with visitors through programs such as "Planet Adirondack," which is our "Science on a Sphere" display.
How did the Center for Career Excellence help you secure this position?
I worked with Sarah Coburn, the senior associate director for internships, to refine my resume and cover letter. She really helped me feel confident throughout the application process.
What has been your favorite task or project so far and why?
The most rewarding assignment has been working on the Climate Smart Communities Guide to help young people around New York State approach their government and become CSC certified. This is a by-the-youth-for-the-youth project that provides step-by-step tips on how to engage with decision-makers. My most fun experience has been learning how to do a T-rescue during canoe training.
What have you taken away from this experience that you will apply to your future career path?
Learning how to simultaneously interact with children and adults when running programs is a vital skill in the informal education field, as we often speak to both groups at the same time and must make it interesting for all ages. Being at The Wild Center has helped me refine those techniques, which is a useful skill to have in any job.
How have you applied what you learned at St. Lawrence to the work you’re doing?
Taking Race, Class, and Environmental Justice allowed me to apply a socio-cultural perspective when discussing the impacts of climate change with visitors. Climate change spans many social issues and being able to bridge the gap between the sciences and humanities is integral to understanding climate justice and climate change. It helped me interpret and explain the content of The Wild Center's new "Climate Solutions" exhibit.
What about your experience are you most proud of?
I’m really proud of myself for helping to plan this year’s Youth Climate Leadership Retreat. As a high schooler, I attended this camp and later became a counselor. Being able to come back and empower a new generation of youth climate leaders is really important to me and reminds me why youth contributions to climate change action are so vital.