Carnegie Mellon University

Bryan Lewis

September 06, 2016

YES: Mentoring Future Green Leaders

In the wake of the Flint water crisis, Detroit high school students are helping to provide adequate recycling training education to a population that has been forced to drink from disposable plastic bottles.

With help from the Youth Energy Squad (YES), these students have had the opportunity to assess the needs of their community and then develop and lead this project as a part of the Youth Leadership Development program with YES.

This is how YES director and CEE alumnus Bryan Lewis (BS ’13, MS ’14) is making sure Detroit children are part of the sustainability conversation.

The organization engages youth in community-based projects in sustainability, social justice, recycling, energy, water, food justice, and agriculture. Other high school students are leading projects related to local curbside recycling programs, microbe pollution in the Detroit River, and many more of Detroit’s sustainability needs.

But it isn’t just the high schoolers getting involved.

Lewis and his team of 12 AmeriCorps members work with teachers and students in more than 56 schools in the Detroit area. For grades k-12, they facilitate projects that educate kids in everything from recycling and reading utility meters to performing sustainability patrols in school—turning off lights and computers to save energy.

“We’re making sure kids are prepared for a sustainable and green future,” says Lewis, who harbors a passion for sustainability and social justice. He strives to make sustainability equitable for everyone and to include underrepresented populations in the process. For him, that starts with the kids.

A Detroit native himself, Lewis developed a profound love for the city only recently.

“When I went back I saw a lot of promise and a lot of opportunity. But I also saw people—real people—who weren’t a part of that opportunity, who did need help, who wanted to be a part of that but maybe just needed the access. And what if I could be a part of providing that access or becoming a part of that community?”