Hi, Defend Our Future – it’s Lela Garner, the former campus organizer for Team Pennsylvania! Although I now hold a position in the University of Virginia’s Office for Sustainability, I wanted to share some thoughts on my experience with Defend. The program offers so much that you can carry with you throughout your professional journey. Here are some skills I learned while working with my wonderful co-workers and students in Philadelphia:
Climate Policy Literacy – I studied Environmental Studies in college and thought I was pretty well-versed with all things climate related. Plot twist: I was not. Before I started working with Defend Our Future, I only understood environmental policy at the surface level. Having spent a few months organizing, I learned how to engage with these materials on a more comprehensive level, and now I truly understand the importance of preserving and advocating for these initiatives, policies and programs.
Communication – As many of you know, you interact with a very diverse group of people while tabling and canvassing. It can be exhausting figuring out ways to appropriately convey your message, but working with Defend helped me refine my communication skills in many ways. I felt comfortable having a very detailed conversation about the complexities of carbon emissions with an Environmental Science Professor AND explaining the basics of sea-level rise to an incoming first-year student. Gauging the audience and adjusting your delivery is an incredibly important skill that you can take with you down any career path.
Multi-tasking – Those involved with Defend Our Future do everything. We’re phonebanking; we’re canvassing; we’re reaching out to local non-profits to collaborate on climate change awareness events. And that’s just naming a few things. Not only do you learn skills to effectively execute all of the different tasks, you learn how to manage your time appropriately to ensure that everything gets done. Not to mention future employers love to hear that you can balance multiple projects at one time.
So continue to advocate, educate and build, and remember that every conversation you have is contributing to an invaluable movement! You’re developing wonderful skills while supporting a more than worthwhile cause.