Mentoring for Future Change

Sue Roegge

Like many people, I was deeply affected by the movie An Inconvenient Truth in the summer of 2006. I “greened” my family’s life and was honored to be accepted as a volunteer public speaker. Through the Climate Project, I was trained by Al Gore and his scientific advisors for my mission: to present and discuss climate change in my own community.

I’m a social studies teacher and a parent of two high school students, so I primarily addressed school groups. I’m proud of the fact that I spoke to over 40 groups in the spring of 2007, but what I’ve found most rewarding is mentoring high school environmental clubs.

As a mentor, it’s important to realize and accept limits in what students desire; while some welcome significant guidance, others have been burned by adults taking over. Some have great passion but little confidence in their public speaking skills.

In my survey of both adults and students, inquiring how adults can most effectively help students meet their goals, all agreed that projects must be student-driven. Students should decide what they want to do and how to do it. That being said, there is nothing wrong with adults giving them some options. I encourage adults to be realistic about the busy lives of students; I don’t think it takes away from their project if an adult offers to do behind the scenes, administrative tasks.

Other things to remember:

Help guide them to clearly defined goals.

Have achievable outcomes.

Make sure to praise the students for their efforts.

Make the work exciting and fun.

Don’t underestimate their abilities (Don’t let them underestimate their abilities, either).

Make sure they know they are agents of change.

I’m very happy to report that the vast majority of the students I surveyed said the adults who work with them are “amazing” and “fantastic.”

To learn more about the Climate Project and its partner initiatives visit and

The most effective, first step and ongoing step a group can take is promoting the Minnesota Energy Challenge. For more information visit

Thank you to the following adults and students for their input for the articles in this Youth section: Anne Dybsetter, Neely Crane Smith, Joel Haskard, Faith Krogstad, Rachael Pream-Grenier, Duane Ninneman, Abby Fenton, Brooke Herling and Katie Laughlin, Emma Krautheim, Sarah Waddle, Nina Forbes, Starr Brainard, Meghan Roegge, Molly Forbes, Liv Meland, Larissa Sage, Natalie Tungsvick, Quentin Tschofen and Nina Brownell.

Mentoring Change

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