Hundreds of high school students to gather at York U to learn how to change their world


TORONTO, Tuesday October 9, 2018 – Ice caps are melting, temperatures are climbing and wild storms are now the norm, but the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) at York University is helping to teach the next generation of students how to change their world for the better. About 1,000 high school students will attend the one-day, Change Your World conference on Oct. 11 designed to inspire youth to become environmentally active citizens.

This year’s keynote speech will be given by one of their peers. Social justice advocate and Grade 11 Toronto student Sara Escallon-Sotomayor believes anyone can get involved and make a difference. She started an online petition to change the Ontario Protecting Students Act to better protect students from abusive teachers, which resulted in a positive change in legislation, and founded Not Just Rumours, a youth-led movement. She is also challenging the provincial government’s plan to repeal the 2015 Sexual Education Curriculum.

In addition to hearing how to make social changes, students will learn about the environment, from Ontario’s only venomous snake, to what happens after an oil spill to participating in a film project for the United Nations or making dyes and inks from plants used by Anishinaabe people to make simple screen-prints on paper and fabric. Students will have a choice of three out of 20 different workshops, plus one mandatory one.

All students will participate in the 3% Project workshop, which will help youth identify, analyze and develop solutions to the largest sustainability challenges facing their own communities. It will help empower students to envision and work toward a future they want to see. Through five national tours, the 3% Project will engage 600 high schools, three per cent of youth across Canada, mainly in Indigenous and rural communities.

Students can also learn about organic agriculture, building healthy soils, and techniques used by small-scale organic farmers through the Black Creek Community Fairs, and why trees are so important in urban settings with the Toronto Park and Tree Foundation.

York U’s Indigenous Environmental Justice Project, led by Canada Research Chair Deborah McGregor, will teach youth about listening to the land and how Indigenous storytelling can point to justice and environmental issues, bring people closer to reconciliation, and tell their own story.

Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s hands-on session will look at microplastics, what they are, why they’re a problem and what’s being done about them.

The day-long event will not only help youth to make a difference, it will show teachers how to incorporate environmental education in their regular classroom throughout the school year. The learning doesn’t end after the conference.

WHAT: Change Your World conference for high school students across the province to learn how to create a more environmentally sustainable future

WHO: Social justice advocate and Grade 11 Toronto student Sara Escallon-Sotomayor.

WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 11, from 8:30am to 2:30pm

WHERE: Vari Hall (see Map) for the student workshops, and 140 Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building for the teacher session, Keele Campus, York University

York University champions new ways of thinking that drive teaching and research excellence. Our students receive the education they need to create big ideas that make an impact on the world. Meaningful and sometimes unexpected careers result from cross-disciplinary programming, innovative course design and diverse experiential learning opportunities. York students and graduates push limits, achieve goals and find solutions to the world’s most pressing social challenges, empowered by a strong community that opens minds. York U is an internationally recognized research university – our 11 faculties and 25 research centres have partnerships with 200+ leading universities worldwide. Located in Toronto, York is the third largest university in Canada, with a strong community of 53,000 students, 7,000 faculty and administrative staff, and more than 300,000 alumni.
York U's fully bilingual Glendon Campus is home to Southern Ontario's Centre of Excellence for French Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education.

Media Contact:
Yanni Dagonas, York University Media Relations, 647-468-7850,