Environmentalism, Leadership, and Fun!
by Teegan Mathey, Youth Staff and student, Aurora, IL
I was first introduced to NEED when I was in seventh grade. My science teacher started an Environmentalists Club, with our main goal of helping our junior high conserve energy. I have always been passionate about helping the environment and my community, which is something that I was able to do through this club. We held recycling drives, energy fairs, and made weekly audits in the school to monitor our energy usage. My friends and I learned a lot about energy conservation in our first year participating in the club and were determined to share our knowledge with our peers as well. In 2016, my team and I won the National Junior Rookie of the Year Award and got the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend the Youth Energy Conference & Awards. Here I was immersed into an environment of students who all had the same drive to learn and succeed. I was challenged and learned many new things that weekend, but also made incredible memories with my classmates and new friends from all around the nation- some of which I am still in touch with today.

On the dinner cruise as a student attendee in 2016

Throughout junior high, I continued to participate in the club, and I attended the Youth Energy Conference & Awards in 2017 as a student once again. My high school currently does not have an Environmentalists Club, so once my time at the 2017 Youth Awards had ended, I was disappointed that my time with NEED was over. It was at that point that my classmate Jayden encouraged me to apply for a Youth Staff position since he had been a member of the Staff that year (2017).

Trading fun as a student attendee, 2017
Staffing the Youth Energy Conference and Awards in 2018 was so much fun! I helped students with their STEM challenges, played games, toured the city, and met so many incredible people. Working with NEED these past few years has been so rewarding and has taught me so much. The opportunities that are available for students and Youth Staff are endless. Renewable energy and energy conservation is the future, and it is so important for students to learn about the topics so that they can educate their peers, school, and community. The Youth Energy Conference and Awards has been such an eye-opening experience for me. Before attending the conference, I had no idea all of the career options that existed within STEM. The passion for energy conservation that I have grown over the past three years has made it clear that I want to pursue a career in STEM, as well so that I can continue having a positive impact on my community.

Playing a game of “Polar Bear” with students, 2018 youth staff member