An intersectional, youth-powered, grassroots movement taking action toward climate justice!
P A R T N E R S :
Born in 2020 from the Virginia chapter of Youth Climate Strike, Virginia Youth Climate Cooperative (VAYCC) is a non-partisan, intersectional, youth-powered and grassroots climate action organization dedicated to fighting for climate justice in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We accomplish this through direct action, lobbying, and divestment work. VAYCC consists of a state team who oversees our statewide goals and regional teams who pursue direct action locally across Virginia.
Updated 2021 by a team of dedicated Policy branch researchers.
We demand that Virginia invest in carbon dioxide (CO2) removal and liquid biofuels innovation and expansion, and to implement and support new ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere by:
Increasing the number of trees in lands that lack wooded areas.
Expanding soil carbon use in farmers’ agricultural land.
Employing Bio-Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).
Utilizing carbon mineralization to turn emissions into solid reusable form.
Scrubbing out carbon dioxide (CO2) with direct air capture.
Attracting emissions, and helping the underwater ecosystems with ocean plant life, the natural carbon cycle, and added chemical minerals.
We demand that Virginia decrease its oil consumption by 30% by 2030, and by 70% by 2050. These decreases are in line with proposed low-overshoot reduction pathways recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
We demand that Virginia decrease its natural gas consumption by 20% reduction by 2030, and by 60% by 2050. These decreases are in line with proposed low-overshoot reduction pathways recommended by the IPCC.
We call on state senators and Virginia's House of Representatives to support the extension of the federal tax credit for electric vehicle purchasers on the federal level.
Currently, the credit caps 200,000 vehicles per automobile manufacturer. However, by removing or substantially increasing the manufacturer-specific cap, consumer demand for Electric Vehicles will increase and demand for gasoline and diesel vehicles will decrease.
We demand that Virginia enhance its statewide initiative to transition to clean transportation by:
Increasing the amount of charging stations for electric vehicles in rural areas of the State.
Mandating that all gasoline stations in the State offer E10+ gasoline.
Implementing government subsidies for jet fuels derived from biofuel, as aviation is responsible for a large amount of global CO2 emissions and is only continuing to rise.
We urge Virginia to encourage retrofitting (updating) of older buildings to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy demand as necessary according to optimal IPCC pathways.
We demand that Virginia invest in more clean energy as the economy reopens. Following the COVID-19 crisis, Virginia’s economy is reopening, people are returning to work, and new jobs are being created. In order to secure a safe future for the planet in the post-COVID world, legislators should:
Invest in research on the correlation between COVID-19 and the climate crisis, and the related impact of renewable energy.
Create job training for people transitioning to renewable sectors.
Work toward eliminating greenhouse gas production completely by 2030.
Catalog energy use throughout the state.
Reinstate national environmental policies rolled back during COVID.*
Prioritize rural and minority communities most affected by COVID, relative to energy.
We demand that Virginia increase the safety and efficiency of existing nuclear facilities in the state through a bill/act that could include but is not limited to:
An investment increase into small, modular reactors, which have decreased investor and meltdown risk. Their flexibility can support various projects that may necessitate additional energy allocation.
A partnership with NuScale Power to promote further movement towards a clean energy economy.
We demand that Virginia utilize nuclear energy as a transitional fuel into a greener economy, acknowledging that it is a significant part of Virginia’s energy economy (approximately 40% of state electricity), and use nuclear energy to offset the inherent intermittency required in the transition to renewable energy without expanding it.
We demand that Virginia support increased state government oversight of Dominion plants, recognize Dominion’s monopoly on energy, and:
Monitor donations and campaign contributions made to politicians and observe rates charged to ratepayers.
Distribute State government money to renewable projects such as solar panels, offshore winds, etc.
We seek for Virginia to support, invest, and promote incorporating environmentalism into higher education throughout the state by:
Integration of climate justice into Virginia's higher ed policies by The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).
Direction from the state government in SCHEV's creation of necessary committees, research programs, data-collection initiatives, etc. to incentivize post-secondary institutions to fight for climate justice.
Ensurance from SCHEV's board that its climate justice policies and initiatives are intersectional, highlighting communities disproportionately affected by climate change (i.e. Black Virginians), and a guarantee that said policies serve HBCU's in an equitable manner.
Climate change is not only an ecological issue, but a moral, political, and economic one. Achieving climate justice requires:
An equitable transition from fossil fuels to a renewable energy economy.
Legislative justice on both state and local levels.
A guarantee by our state government, and the Commonwealth, to respect the sovereignty of indigenous lands, governments, and peoples.
We demand the adoption of a Native Land Acknowledgement bill/act by the Virginia General Assembly (VAGA). We specifically call upon the VAGA to read the adopted bill/act at the beginning of every VAGA session to honor and respect the sovereignty of indigenous governments and peoples.
We demand the end of construction on any new fossil fuel infrastructure, emphasizing the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP).
We demand that Virginia reduces its total greenhouse gas emissions by the UN recommended 55% by 2030.
We demand a Virginia-specific Green New Deal Act (as proposed for the first time in the 2020 VAGA legislative session) be passed & ratified by the Governor.
We demand the adoption of climate emergency declarations and plans, with funds allocated to climate agendas in localities across the Virginia Commonwealth.
Thank you for reading our climate demands. If you have questions or want to learn more about any of the listed demands, please feel free to contact us.
5 CHAPTER LEADS
3 STUDENT AMBASSADOR COORDINATORS
Scroll down to our 'Regional Leads' section to find a chapter to join near you!
Giana Lathan (she/her) is a junior at Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach, VA where she attends the Global Studies and World Language Academy. Giana has been a member of VAYCC since May of 2020. She is passionate about climate action, justice, protection and sustainability in low income and BIPOC communities. As Executive Director, Giana works with all VAYCC members to ensure the organization is running smoothly.
director of policy
Mrudula Rapaka (she/her) is a senior at Chantilly High School in Fairfax Virginia. Outside of VAYCC, she is the Director of Legislative Research for the Environmental Justice Coalition as well as a board member for the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter Youth Leadership Council. She enjoys reading, listening to music, and eating mango jellies. She is excited to fight for environmental justice with her amazing policy team.
director of organizing
Mayra Rios (she/her) is a junior at James Madison High School in Vienna, VA. She is extremely passionate about fighting climate change and is actively involved in her school's Climate Leaders team. She hopes to ensure VAYCC continues as a prosperous and educational institution by offering various statewide events and educational opportunities in collaboration with fellow activists and climate experts.
co-director of outreach
Nitya Varigala (she/her) is a junior at Chantilly High School in Chantilly, Virginia, and has been with VAYCC since March, 2020. She believes the key to combating climate change lies with the youth, and wants VAYCC to have as big of an impact as possible by being inclusive and equitable. In her free time, Nitya dances with her Bhangra team, writes for a youth-oriented news source, and is active in Model UN and Girl Scouts.
co-director of outreach
Roma Arora (she/her) is a junior at the Academies of Loudoun & Freedom High school in Northern VA, and has been with VAYCC since June, 2020. She is passionate about the intersection of climate change and women’s health, striving to center public health and minority voices in the fight for climate justice. Her passion stems from personally witnessing the devastating effect air pollution has had on her loved ones. Roma is also the founder of The Community Check-Up, which is a national environmental organization aiming to reduce environmental health disparities through youth engagement and educational outreach.
co-director of press
Lyat Melese (she/her) is a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, VA. She is eager to do her part in the fight for climate justice. Lyat is passionate about writing as a tool to raise awareness and uplift youth voices in climate advocacy. She and her team run the medium publication and publicize VAYCC activities through press. Lyat enjoys creative writing, interning at the Children’s National Hospital, and participating in Neuroscience Society.
co-director of press
Cece O'Sullivan (she/her) is a senior at The Potomac School and has been with VAYCC since July, 2019, serving as co-director of press since early 2020. She is extremely passionate about environmental justice and uses her role in press to spread awareness and publicize VAYCC’s actions. Outside of VAYCC, Cece serves as the head of social media for a mental health advocacy group, leads her school’s Model UN club, and loves to read, write, and hike.
director of science research
Noyanika Vattathara (she/her) is a senior at Chantilly High School in Chantilly, VA and has been with VAYCC since March, 2020. She believes that science is essential to effective public policy and is passionate about including all voices in the climate justice conversation. Noya leads her team in informing climate policy proposals and researching developments in environmental science. Outside of VAYCC, she is captain of debate, editor-in-chief of her school’s literary magazine, an active epidemiology and computational biology researcher, and loves to read, bake, and play piano.
director of finance
Mina Bahadori (she/her) is a senior at The Potomac School in McLean, VA. She has been with VAYCC since August, 2020. She is passionate about environmental justice and renewable energy. As finance director, Mina manages VAYCC's funds and researches the connection between finances and the environment. Outside of VAYCC, Mina loves running, playing squash, learning languages, baking, and arts and crafts!
director of the student ambassador program
Nora Shanahan (she/her) is a student at Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke, Virginia. Her primary focuses regarding climate change include environmental epidemiology, green infrastructure, and safe, renewable energy sources. Beyond the realm of the VAYCC, you can find Nora presiding over her college’s honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, working with the Sierra Club in their inaugural Youth Leadership Council, or representing the student body on her institution’s College Council.
co-director of creative
Saakshi Rawat (she/her) is a senior at Annandale High School in Northern Virginia. She has been with VAYCC since April, 2020. She is passionate about fighting climate change and environmental justice. She and her co-director work to spread our mission on social media and our website. She is also active in her school's Green Atoms club. In her free time, she enjoys playing field hockey, reading, and hiking.
co-director of creative
Amelia Lucien (she/her) is a sophomore at Yorktown High school in Northern VA. She is passionate about climate justice and believes that everyone has a responsibility to do their part to help the earth, even if it is small. Amelia works with her co-director to run VAYCC’s social media and website, along with other projects. In her free time she enjoys playing lacrosse, hiking, hanging out with friends, reading, and listening to music.
Henry Haggard (he/him) is a junior at Freeman High School. As a lifelong lover of the James River, he’s always cared about protecting Virginia ecosystems and the people that rely on them. As Richmond’s regional lead, he hopes his team can help bring the city closer to climate justice. When he is not planning a river cleanup or spending time in nature, he is probably playing guitar or doing his uncanny Tom Waits impression.
Terrence McDuffie (he/him) attends Indian River High School and has been a part of VAYCC since May, 2021. He strives to become a criminal defense attorney in order to ensure rightful liberty amongst all people. At the heart of this lies his true passion: helping others. Terrence joined VAYCC to do just that. His goal within the organization is to help bring about a sustainable future in which people can live at ease without the pressure of the world’s climate crisis.
Anshu Palicherla (they/she) is a high school student in Loudoun County. They decided to join VAYCC in November, 2020 after attending events and getting acquainted with the organization. Their hopes for the Loudoun chapter is to spread climate education, and mobilize Loudoun to foster change and growth in the community. Anshu is involved in many other climate justice organizations. In her free time they enjoy being in nature, playing guitar, and spending time with her dog.
Ciara Graves (she/her) is a junior at King George High School in King George, VA. She joined the VAYCC family in June, 2020 as the Fredericksburg Regional Lead. Ciara’s main goal is to advance accessible activism and sustainability as a teenager. She knows that advocating for our planet can be a major weight and wants her peers to understand what even making small choices and taking accountability can accomplish.
Luciana Vera (she/her) is a rising senior at James Madison High School. She joined VAYCC in August, 2020 and found a passion for educating others about how the climate crisis affects everyone and how young people can help combat it. Luciana leads the Fairfax County chapter to do just this via local climate education advocacy and research. In her free time, Luciana likes to read, run, eat, and watch Glee and Criminal Minds reruns.
Stay tuned to meet this chapter's new lead!
(see 'State Board' to learn more about Nora!)
Jaiden Murray (she/her) is a senior at Thomas Dale High School in Chester, VA. She joined VAYCC's Outreach team in 2020, eventually becoming a Student Ambassador Program coordinator in 2020. She is passionate about various issues affecting minority communities, and advocating for their equal representation in the fight for climate justice. She is also fond of movies, reading, and traveling!
Jordan Funk (he/him) is a freshman at H-B Woodlawn in Arlington, VA. He joined VAYCC in April, 2020, and is a member of both the Outreach branch and the Student Ambassador Program coordinator team. He discovered his passion for outreach during quarantine and is currently working on an ambassador project to combine his passion for the arts with climate activism. In his free time, Jordan loves to play Dungeons & Dragons, create music, and participate in tech theatre.
Understanding the basics of government is crucial to being an engaged citizen. Watch these short informational videos produced by our policy team to learn a bit more about policy, and stay tuned for future episodes of "Policy 101".
Virginia General Assembly Recap
Policy 101: How A Bill Becomes A Law
Visit us on youtube!
Our Policy branch creates and modifies platform and demands; monitors bills, policies, laws, initiatives, and regulations in state and local governments that we should support or oppose; uses research to script accessible informational videos, info-graphics, webinars, and more.
Policy Team Members
Mrudula Rapaka, Director
Our Outreach branch primarily coordinates actions with other organizations and recruits new organizers for new and existing regional teams. They work closely with Organizing and the Student Ambassador Program to maintain strong connections within the state team and regional chapters.
Outreach Team Members
Roma Arora, Co-Director
Nitya Varigala, Co-Director
Our Organizing branch plans actions and methods, and makes sure regional teams have all the supplies, support, and permits they need for actions.
Organizing Team Members
Mayra Rios, Director
Our Press branch publicizes actions and demands through the press. They oversee the VAYCC medium and facilitate press communications with entities outside of VAYCC.
Press Team Members
Lyat Melese, Co-Director
Cece O'Sullivan, Co-Director
Our Finance branch acquires and manages organization funds, oversees economic campaigns and fundraising initiatives, and spearheads VAYCC's efforts to achieve 501(c)(4) status.
Finance Team Members
Mina Bahadori, Director
Our Science Research branch creates briefs on new renewable energies, climate technologies and scientific discoveries, and works with our Policy branch on the scientific perspective of law.
Science Research Team Members
Noyanika Vattathara, Director
Our Creative branch manages VAYCC's social media accounts and website, creates graphics for various uses, and edits videos for our YouTube channel.
Creative Team Members
Saakshi Rawat, Co-Director
Amelia Lucien, Co-Director
The Student Ambassador Program is a branch of VAYCC facilitated by our program director and a team of Student Ambassador Coordinators. Our goal is to mobilize youth between the ages of 12 and 24 who are passionate about the environment while making participation accessible for those who have limited time and want to learn, create community, and make an impact.
R E Q U I R E M E N T S
• Must be between the ages of 12 and 24.
• Must participate in at least one event or
initiative per month.
B E N E F I T S
• Flexible Time Commitment
• Leadership Opportunities
• Service Hours
• Climate Education
• Network with Peer Advocates
• Network with & Learn from Environmental Experts
• Diverse Participation Opportunities (see right)
• No Prior Advocacy Experience Required
P A R T I C I P A T I O N
O P P O R T U N I T I E S
• Attend Virtual Events
• Join a Group Project
• Lead a Group Project
• Sign Petitions
• Share Posts & Climate Information Via Social Media
• Read & Share Climate-Related Articles & News
• And More!
V O T E R I E D U C A T I O N I P R O J E C T
An ambassador-led initiative informing youth
about voting & encouraging young people to
vote. If you are interested in politics, specifically
Virginia's politics, you are welcome to join!
Listen to our voting Q&A with ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Gastañaga.
E N V I R O N M E N T A L I R A C I S M
F O C U S
We are committed to intersectional climate
justice, and are proud to host various events and initiatives surrounding the topic of
environmental racism as a form of advocacy and awareness-spreading.
H A P P Y I H O U R S
A great way to meet peers in a casual setting!
Play games, chat with fellow activists, and ask questions about the program if you are curious. Happy Hours are open to the public and not exclusive to ambassadors!
Y O U N G I C R E A T I V E S: I W E I B E L O N G I I N I T H E I F I G H T I F O R I C L I M A T E I J U S T I C E
With Richmond Young Writers
This collaborative experience between Richmond Young Writers' young creative writers and VAYCC's young artists illustrates (pun intended) that people of all ages and passions belong in climate advocacy!
W A T C H I O U R I 2 0 2 1 I C L I M A T E I 1 0 1 I W E B I N A R
Featuring Dr. Mary Finley-Brook & VA Green New Deal's, Lee Williams
R E A D Y I T O I B E C O M E I A N I A M B A S S A D O R ?
Tell us a bit about yourself with this questionnaire!
We will then connect you with a coordinator to begin your journey with the VAYCC!
! A P P L I C A T I O N S I O P E N !
Are you a detail-oriented and self-driven individual who is passionate about climate justice and social interaction? Are you between the ages of 14 and 22 and living in Virginia? If so, this position may be for you! We look for individuals who enjoy public speaking, mentoring youth activists, leading and co-facilitating events, and interacting with others in a team-oriented environment.
Previous leadership, event planning, and/or climate activism experience is preferred but not required.
As a coordinator, you will work personally with the director of the Student Ambassador Program as well as a team of coordinators to recruit, engage, and assist ambassadors with program activities, as needed.
P R I M A R Y I R E S P O N S I B I L I T I E S
Conduct frequent outreach to recruit new ambassadors.
Research & share a minimum of one resource per week to inform ambassadors on statewide/national climate developments (i.e. articles/videos, petitions, event/action opportunities, etc.).
Lead/co-lead & plan events. Organize educational and action opportunities for ambassadors.
Attend & contribute during team meetings (i.e. sharing ideas for actions and events, providing operational/programmatic, etc.
Keep track of ambassador projects & maintain contact with ambassadors.
Complete tasks in a timely & organized manner.
Other tasks as needed.
TYPICAL TIME COMMITMENT OF A COORDINATOR IS 1-3 HOURS PER WEEK
G E T I I N I T O U C H
YOUNG CREATIVES: WE Belong in the fight for climate justice
This collaborative experience between Richmond Young Writers' young creative writers and VAYCC's young artists illustrates (pun intended) that people of all ages and passions belong in climate advocacy! See a description below:
Why is it that some seem disinterested in climate change? Why is environmental advocacy sometimes seen as boring? It can be easy to think of climate advocacy as a one-dimensional subject that only those who immerse themselves in politics, scientific studies, etc. can meaningfully participate in. Yet this is far from the truth. Creatives such as writers, musicians, artists, etc. are essential to the movement for climate justice. Creative writers who participated in this workshop were given the opportunity to have a piece illustrated by a member of VAYCC.
During this workshop, the small group of young writers were given a two prompts: the earth I was given, and the earth I want to give. The first was to demonstrate students' observations of climate change's effects on the world around them now. The second explored their visions of a future without a climate crisis. Students were asked to discuss climate change and how they observe its effects around them. The workshop confirmed what we already know; young people are watching, young people understand the issue, and young people want to participate in the solution.
Below, see one of our student's poems and accompanying art pieces from VAYCC members.
Srija D. Age 15
Amy T. Age 17
The sound of nature
Piper J. Age 12
The earth I was given blows its wind into my hair.
Its grass gently sways in the breeze under my feet, matching the pattern of the branches in the big magnolia trees.
I take a deep breath, inhaling the smell of the sweet summer air and exhaling from my mouth.
My ears are alive with the sound of nature around me.
We are excited that you are interested in submitting to our Medium publication. We hope that our publication will be a platform for you to voice your opinions and serve as a forum to communicate with a community of youth who are passionate about fighting for climate justice. Before you submit your manuscript, read the following guidelines to get an idea of what we are looking to publish. If you have any questions or concerns, contact us at email@example.com. We look forward to reading your submission.
W H A T I W E I L O O K I F O R
• Personal Narratives
• Other Forms of Creative Writing
Please contact us if you have an idea that is not listed.
Forget Objectivity. An op-ed is about your opinion and perspective. Make your argument in a persuasive manner and do not be afraid to passionately (though respectfully) argue your point.
Maintain Readability. You are writing for a general audience who may not be as knowledgeable about the topic as you are. Accessibility is imperative. Avoid jargon or explain terms that may not be generally understood.
Be Concise. The article should be no longer than 800 words. Our press team can help you edit or revise your manuscript.
Citate Accordingly. Use reliable sources and give credit using in-text citations. While you can add a citation page, it is not required.
Personal Narrartives Are All About You. Make it all about you and your experiences. You are free to write anything under this section and we have very few requirements. We want to preserve your voice and your story as best we can. Maximum word count is 1,000 words.
Poetry Is Free Range As Long As It Connects To Our Mission In Some Way. Poetry is about telling a story, whether it be personal or something more general. Similar to a personal narrative, we want your voice to be bold and highlighted in your submission. While there is no maximum word count, it is prefered that your piece be no longer than two pages.
Get Creative! Creative writing can take any form whether it be a short story, speech, flash fiction, etc. Let your imagination run free (but please stay within an environmental lens!) Creative writing forms should be no longer than 1,000 words.
While we do not accept photography, art forms, infographics, etc.. as a stand alone submission, you can submit them as an attachment to your writing. Graphics make your writing more engaging, and therefore are encouraged. Any graphical content submitted must be your own work. We do not accept any content that is taken off the internet or is not of your own creation. If a graphic is not submitted, your writing will be published with an appropriate picture chosen by the press team from reliable and royalty free sources.*
All content submitted must be relevant to the work of VAYCC. As an intersectional organization, this is flexible and applies to a wide range of topics. Timely and relevant topics are preferred. See our Instagram (@vaclimate) and our Medium publication (above) to learn more about what we do and find past publication examples.
Allies within the VA state goverment who sign the VAYCC Pledge commit to advocating for our futures and for our environment. We must evaluate our representatives and ensure they are voting against climate change.
To sign the Pledge, a candidate/representative must sign at least 9 of our 16 statements which make up the entire Pledge (see below). After a candidate/representative signs the Pledge, we monitor their voting record, affiliations, and donors to ensure they are upholding the values within each statement they sign.
Are You Our Next Climate Justice Leader?
If you are a candidate or representative interested in signing our pledge, know someone who would be a good fit, or have questions, please reach out to our Policy Team.
Find out what events we are hosting each month!
We are monitoring VA's COVID-19 numbers and will begin hosting in-person events (strikes, workshops, rallies, etc.) when we feel that circumstances allow.
Thank you for your interest in donating to
Virginia Youth Climate Cooperative!
We gratefully accept donations via our GoFundMe. Your donations go directly to sustaining our organization so that we may continue our advocacy work. This includes funding various events and initiatives (i.e. compensating guest speakers and workshop leaders), powering our website, etc.
We hope you will consider donating a few dollars to our cause.
Every dollar is appreciated!
We would love to hear from you. Connect with us today!