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14 students graduated in Portland, Oregon



On Saturday June 9, 2018, students from Oregon participated in a Plant-for-the-Planet Academy in NE Portland, Oregon. It took place at the offices of 350PDX (special thanks to new ED Anais Tuepker), located in Central Lutheran Church in NE Portland. A concurrent Parents’ Meeting was held in another room at the same location, facilitated by Bill Rensmith. The Academy was supported by 350PDX, with food donations from Trader Joe’s and New Seasons Market. The Academy was led by (parents) Catherine Beckett, assisted by Pam Vergun, and Youth Ambassadors Miko and Isaac Vergun, Dylan Beckett, Rocco Jones and Kate Shrewsbury (Lillian Rensmith was also present until lunchtime). All were assisted by six additional adult volunteers and 3 VIP speakers: Kristen Sheeran from Governor Brown’s Office of Environmental Issues, author Mary DeMocker, and Keoki Kakigi, Sustainability Operations Manager for the Portland Trailblazers.

The Academy graduated 14 students, aged 9 to 16, from two cities (Portland and Beaverton) who represented 8 schools: ACCESS Academy, the International School of Beaverton, Opal School, Sunset High School, Robert Gray Middle, West Sylvan Middle, Jacob Wismer Elementary, and Oak Hills.

Sponsors and Supporters

The Academy grew out of previous connections between Catherine and Dylan Beckett and 350PDX. Food for snacks and lunch was donated by Trader Joe’s and New Seasons Market, and prepared by Catherine and Tom Beckett.

Our first VIP of the day was Kristen Sheeran, who serves as Climate and Energy Policy Advisor to Governor Kate Brown. In the afternoon, we had VIP presenter Mary DeMocker, author of the book “The Parent’s Guide to Climate Revolution,” followed by Keoki Kakigi, Sustainability Operations Manager for the Portland Trailblazers.

We distributed T-shirts and books sent by Plant-for-the-Planet. 350PDX has supported us with their endorsement and advertising of Plant-for-the-Planet to their membership, as well as providing the space at no cost. Portland Friends of Trees was ready with the donation of a sapling to plant. Several people took photos and video, especially Pam and Isaac Vergun.

Parts of the Day

Parents’ Meeting

The parents meeting was led by Bill Rensmith. Seattle started these meetings to help parents get a better understanding of their imperative role in helping their Ambassadors be successful at making change. Parents really appreciated the chance to talk with each other as parents about the climate crisis.

Welcome, Ambassadors’ Presentation, Q & A, Break

Students arrived at the Academy and were greeted by the Ambassadors leading the Academy: Dylan, Miko, Isaac, Rocco and Kate. Catherine introduced Plant-for-the-Planet, and the five Ambassadors gave the presentation. Then, we listened to the great comments of Kristen Sheeran. She shared her thoughts about what she had just heard & how we can work together; she also stated that she was impressed by the quality of the presentation, and that even though she is quite experienced in climate matters, she had learned several new things. Then, we took a break and enjoyed a healthy snack.

World Game and Rhetoric Training

Ambassadors led the World Game in small groups, using old pearl-like beads to represent carbon, and large and small shells to represent people and wealth. Then, they turned to Rhetoric Practice and discussed what makes a speech effective, and gave out the slides with the presenter notes so students could practice giving small parts of the talk. Pam assigned slides for the afternoon presentation.

This is the first Academy where we have accommodated a student in a wheelchair. As a result, we moved the World Game (usually done on the floor) to tables, which worked fine for everyone.

Lunch Break & Preparing to Give the Presentation

Parent volunteers set up the donated food as a vegetarian build-your-own taco buffet. We shared a blessing appropriate for everyone and talked about the importance of taking only the food we know we can eat and making sure that nothing is wasted—that we can save leftovers and compost all that is left or can’t be eaten.

Just before lunch, Ambassador Rocco performed an original rap he had written about climate advocacy. He then invited participants to join him in a reprise, call and response style.

Then, Ambassadors and Catherine helped the students to practice for the afternoon slideshow. Students were encouraged to practice their assigned slides, first in small groups, then in pairs, and finally in a large group run-through. They also had the opportunity to practice using the hand-held microphone they would have for the final presentation.

Afternoon Presentation & Graduation

All the students presented, without their notes. Most did quite well with the microphone. As an additional accommodation for the student in the wheelchair, the presenters lined up and passed the microphone along the line, so that they did not have to continually move up towards the screen.

The presentation was attended by the families of the students and the Academy volunteers. The students did very well. Students received their appointments as Climate Justice Ambassadors, along with certificates, t-shirts, Tree by Tree, and Everything Would Be Alright. And, of course, we got some great photos and videos. Everyone pitched to get everything cleaned up before we had to be out of the building right on time.

Upcoming Academies will be announced on the Plant-for-the-Planet website and at our local site:

For more pictures of the event, please click here! And if you want to become a Climate Justice Ambassador, you can apply at the following webpage.