What follows is a joint blog from Kids4BW Board Members, Callie Stolar and Julia Ruelle, detailing their first advocacy trip to Washington D.C. in June, 2018, when they helped officially launch Kids For The Boundary Waters and spoke with numerous elected and appointed officials.
The Boundary Waters is an exceptionally unique place, and part of what makes it so special is the many ways it impacts the people who journey into the wilderness. During the Kids4BW trip to D.C. in June, I had the pleasure of meeting 6 other inspiring young people, each of whom have a special connection to the Boundary Waters and who feel compelled, as I do, to work to defend this beautiful wilderness.
Before flying to our nation’s capital, the only interaction I’d had with the board of Kids For The Boundary Waters (Kids4BW) was via video chat; I truly had no idea what to expect. I was greeted at the DC airport by my aunt and a young “giant” whom I’d only met once before; Tommy, a board member and friend of my cousin Joseph, towered over me, immediately cracking jokes and looking for food. We wandered the National Mall for a few hours, taking in the sites and eating some delicious gyros before finally meeting up with Joseph and the rest of the board. Although I thought it would be uncomfortable meeting people that I had only seen on video, I quickly realized how interesting and funny these young individuals were and almost immediately, we “clicked.”
That night we had our first team dinner. We swapped stories and Joseph and the adults taught us how meeting with legislative officials would usually proceed. Though I know this was meant to reassure us, it just jumbled my nerves even more! I began running through every worst possible scenario in my head, certain I would make a fool of myself. It didn’t take long, though, before my mini panic attack was fully interrupted by the carefree joking of all the kids, who already seemed so at ease with one another. Soon I was at ease as well, and I realized I was in the same boat as everyone else. I began enjoying learning about these new people and got very excited about the days ane meetings ahead.
The next morning we met for breakfast and headed to the National Parks Conservation Association (NCPA) headquarters for our first-ever board meeting. Joseph conducted the meeting in a way that allowed everyone to voice an opinion and to critique ideas. After discussing the budget and outreach for new members, we hashed out the plan for the committees. I had been asked previously to head up the blogging committee which I couldn’t have been more excited about. Then, during the board meeting, I was psyched to have my new friend Julia head up the committee alongside me. We then discussed social media/communication, as well as policy, fundraising, and outreach. It was incredible to see how much work had been done already and overwhelming to realize what we still had to do before our next trip in November. More than anything, though, I felt reassured that I was a part of a group of strong-minded individuals who were prepared and capable of getting the job done. We were there to do a job, and we were going to see it though.
Following the board meeting we had a press event, merging the conclusion of Dave and Amy’s Pedal to D.C. with the official launch of Kids. There, Joseph gave a carefully planned speech, as I felt anxiously unprepared as I waited to give the speech that I had quickly cobbled together during the single day between my trip to the Boundary Waters and heading to D.C.. Fortunately, my passion and connection with the Boundary Waters came so naturally that once I started talking I hardly noticed the group assembled on the National Mall as we spoke. Later, the discussions with congresspeople, representatives, and department heads went similarly; once I got past my initial nerves and began speaking about the importance of the Boundary Waters, it all changed from a daunting to exciting, and I found myself so inspired by the honesty, the experiences and the passion of my peers.
Like Callie, I had imagined worst-case scenarios with stern and somewhat intimidating members of congress, staffers or appointed officials judging me while I forgot my entire pitch. However, everyone we met with was kind and receptive, and each time we spoke, we refined our pitches to near perfection. We handled 15 meetings in two days – it was a whirlwind, and we all learned a lot about the way things work in D.C. and the power of our voices, especially as youth.
Given the success of our inaugural Kids for the Boundary Waters trip to D.C., we are very excited to return to D.C. November 12th through the 15th to speak on behalf of the protection of our favorite place. However, this time we want to bring you with us! The timing of this next fly-in is crucial as it is shortly after both the midterm elections and the conclusion of the environmental impact assessment of the potential consequences of copper sulfide mining so close to the Boundary Waters. We hope that by bringing a large contingent of passionate youth advocates to D.C., we will amplify the voices of all who love and treasure the Boundary Waters.
We hope you’ll join us. Please follow this link for more information on the fly-in and to download an application. See you in D.C.!