‘Eye-opening’ Climate Leadership Summit helping bring area high school students to CSU

A group shot of some of the high school students that attended CSU's first Climate Leadership Summit.

As a senior at Rocky Mountain High School, Charly Frank designed graphics and helped plan the 2022 Climate Leadership Summit at Colorado State University.

I think over the course of planning and actually attending the event it had an extreme impact on my overall understanding of sustainability as a concept and how I could be a better environmental activist,” Frank said. “I learned so much about sustainability and when I went to some of the breakout sessions it was definitely eye opening.”

Before the event, Frank hadn’t decided on which university to attend. After the summit, she had chosen CSU. 

“I was right in the middle of deciding between schools when I was working on the summit,” Frank said. “I think being able to see a school and so many faculty that care so much about global environmental issues that I am also passionate about really motivated me to choose CSU.”

Fossil Ridge High School student Abby Dalrymple helped plan last year’s event and hopes to work on this year’s summit, to be held April 19, 2023, at CSU’s Lory Student Center.

I think CSU had a great impact on me with being able to get in touch with the campus in high school,” said Dalrympe, who is undecided on a college. “I added CSU to my list of schools to apply for because of the eco-friendly environment this school is located in, and also because it participates in staying green.”

Summit started in Poudre School District

Summit organizers, including CSU’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability, are aiming for 400 students from Poudre, Thompson and other school districts.

Nick Peterson, PSD’s community and business development coordinator, started the summit in 2017 at Fossil Ridge High School when he was a counselor who led the Environmental Club.

The event went well from 2017 through 2019 and then wasn’t held in 2020 and 2021. This past March, the event moved to CSU’s Lory Student Center and PSD partnered with SoGES through contact with Aleta Weller, SoGES’s senior research and engagement officer.

“It made more sense to host it in a central, neutral space,” Peterson said, adding that the pandemic derailed the event.  “We reignited with as much energy as we could put forward. It was kind of starting from scratch again but it gave us a clean slate to design the event at CSU.”

The summit drew high school students from PSD, TSD, Broomfield, Estes Park, Ault, Greeley and some charter schools. “We just wanted to be as inclusive as possible, and having CSU as our location, just gave the summit so much more gravity and legitimacy.”

‘Passionate about this issue’

Sustainability matters are heartfelt for Frank, Dalrymple and Rachel Lorenzen, now a first-year CSU student who decided to stay in Fort Collins for college before the summit.

Rachel Lorenzen
Rachel Lorenzen at CSU’s first Climate Leadership Summit.

Sustainability-related topics are very important to me, and I am extremely passionate about this issue,” said Lorenzen, who attended Poudre High School. “I think people my age think about these topics quite a bit. Sustainability is going to be something that plays a big role in our lives, and it will continue to grow in its influence.”

Frank said her exposure to SoGES while planning the event has had an effect.

“I have talked to some of the faculty members since starting this fall because I am interested in possibly pursuing a minor,” Frank said. “I am thinking of having some connection to sustainability whether it be through a Sustainability Minor or through trying to incorporate sustainability into a career.”

The same goes for Lorenzen: “I’m majoring in mechanical engineering. I chose this major because of my passion for renewable energy, which has a connection to sustainability.”

‘Very inspiring’

Dalrymple said she wanted to help plan the high school/university event to work on leadership skills. She already has a career path in mind.

I am majoring in sports marketing/management,” she said. “I do realize this doesn’t really relate to sustainability, but I do think my connections to planning the event will fit into this career. Overall, sustainability is always a topic to consider in life and should not be pushed off in any job.”

Frank said she understands why CSU repeatedly has been named a top school for environmental issues.

“I talked with several current students at CSU while I was working on the summit, and they just reaffirmed that CSU is a great school if you are passionate about sustainability,” she said. “I think hearing about some of CSU’s mission statement and values at the introduction was very inspiring and also helpful in deciding to come to CSU because I heard lots of my values and goals as a part of the overall mission of this school.”