15th Annual Youth Leadership Summit for Sustainable Development

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The Stone Soup Leadership Institute’s
15th Annual Youth Leadership Summit for Sustainable Development
June 22-28, 2019 • Newport, Rhode Island

The Institute’s 15th Summit for Sustainable Development was a great success. The week long program inspired multicultural youth to learn first-hand about the Blue Economy. Youth were nominated by their communities: Newport, Providence, Boston, and New Bedford. College students from Salve Regina University, Community College of Rhode Island, University of Rhode Island, and University of Massachusetts Dartmouth served as interns, working with the Institute’s Emerging Leaders from our initiatives in Hawaii, Martha’s Vineyard, Puerto Rico. Youth delegates visited an oyster farm, IYRS, sailed, heard from blue companies, volunteered with a Trash Skimmer and helped envision the Institute’s Sustainable Workforce Development Network kiosk, connecting youth to blue career pathways.

Reading story: TreePeople Youth who set a goal of planting a 1,000,000 trees!

Each morning, the Summit Facilitators chose a story from the book, Stone Soup for the World: Life-Changing Stories of Everyday Heroes to inspire youth to be leaders in their lives and their communities. Morning sessions included inspiring presentations on sustainable best practices from local companies and sustainability experts.

Multicultural Youth Build Sustainable World

In times like these, it’s especially important to find ways to honor multicultural youth as champions of sustainability At the Summit, we have a tradition of learning each youth delegate with their country’s flag. Each year we add to our growing collection. This year we added Cape Verdes, Haiti and Nigeria – nearing 30 flags hang on our walls. We invite youth to have a photo with their flag.  Each morning, the Summit’s Director Marianne Larned invites us to choose a Leadership Card – a unique quality to guide our day.   Our Summit Facilitators translate them into different languages so that each day, we learn a new word in a different language. Throughout the Summit, the Summit Team leads interactive games and culturally respectful activities.

Sustainability Tour: Matunuck Oyster Bar & Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge

This year’s Sustainability Tours focused on the Blue Economy as well as experiential outdoor learning where youth learn to appreciate sustainable best practices to preserve our fragile ecosystems. Fortunately for us, we had two gorgeous, sunny days!

On Saturday, Matunuck Oyster Farm founder Perry Raso led youth on an aquaculture adventure on his platoon excursion boat.  He opened our eyes to a whole new world, and taught us how his farm is an important part of the blue economy.  Everyone was impressed when he jumped in the water and showed how the oysters are filter feeders, and take toxins out of the ocean. Perry built his company from the ground up, starting in his youth. He now has a thriving restaurant with 200 employees — from oyster shuckers to restaurant workers — generating $10 million a year! Perry’s blue company is good for business, while helping the environment.

After lunch, we explored Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge, and learned about ocean stewardship and how beach grass helps prevent coastal erosion. “On Saturday I learned about sustainability for the very first time,”  said New Bedford youth delegate Micah Ortiz.

Sustainability Tour II: International School of Technology & Trades and Sail Newport

For the Sunday Sustainability Tours we visited IYRS and learned about wooden boatbuilding methods and their digital modeling and fabrication program.  Bill Kenyon shared careers in marine trades like surfboard building, bridge maintenance and offshore wind management and repair.

With our newfound appreciation for the boatbuilding business, we embarked on our own sailboat adventure with Sail Newport with patient and helpful sailing instructors. Our youth delegates especially enjoyed having the opportunity to help steer their boats.   Ke-Shawn Bennett overcame his initial fear of sailing on the trip. “Now I want do more sailing and learn about how to control the boat,” he said.

Sustainability and You!

Trevor Tanaka, the Institute’s Hawaiian Emerging Leader, respectfully opened Monday morning with a Hawaiian Oli (chant) honoring the power of nature.

Kutasha Silva‘s presentation on sustainability — from United Nations’ Sustainability Goals to environmental justice, the Green New Deal and the Blue Economy.

Trevor led an interactive workshop, inviting youth to explore ideas for sustainability practices in their or other communities.

Afternoon sessions were held in the Computer Lab, guided by Summit Facilitators using the Institute’s TouchStone Learning Tools. Youth developed their personalized Dream Map™, Career Mentor Worksheets and Five-Year-Plan and envisioned Sustainability-in-Action projects to improve their communities.  Inspired by Trevor’s presentation of his Five-Year Plan, youth were invited to begin envisioning their own dreams and learning how to make them happen. Using the Institute’s Learning Tools, youth paired off and shared their personal stories to create their first bios. To continue our exploration, youth shared their heritages and family rituals. Everyone was amazed to learn about the wealth of diversity among us.

Monday night we traveled to the harbor to see Clean Ocean Access’ Trash Skimmer, with the Southeast New England Marina Trash Skimmer Program which has removed more than 20,000 pounds of marine debris and 27,000 individual items of litter. Youth delegates pulled out cigarette butts, plastic straws, and plastic waste from the skimmer. Our guide Max Kraimer told how the skimmer removed 50 pounds of garbage Monday—in just 12 hours. Martha’s Vineyard Emerging Leader Chris Aring was amazed by the trash skimmer. “I learned just how much trash is in our oceans,” Chris said. “It blew my mind.”

Professional Work Day
Blue Economy & Tech Career Pathways

Tuesday youth heard from diverse speakers in the Blue Economy. They kept youth delegates engaged while simultaneously informing them of the terrific strides being made towards a more sustainable future right in our own waters.  The delegates were especially impressed to hear about the wide array of jobs. It was great to hear there are diverse career pathways to fit everyone’s unique interests.

  • Aquaculture: Brian Crawford
    Univ. of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center
  • Marine Trade: Evan Ridley
    Rhode Island Marine Trade Association.
  • Blue Tech: Marisa Guarinello
    Inspire Environmental

During the week, youth reflected on what they were learning at the Summit about sustainability. Reflections ranged from broad to specific. “When I started this program, I didn’t even know that this word existed,” said Evelin Perez Diaz. “Now I have a better understanding that it is to help us and everything around us.”  For Chibike Nwodim, “I’ve learned a lot about sustainability, especially its importance. I really didn’t know anything about it before the Summit.”  Before the Summit, Jack McCoy thought sustainability was “just another corporate buzzword.” “Not only did I learn enough about sustainability this week to learn that that isn’t true, I learned enough to be inspired to do something about it,” Jack said. “Aside from what I learned, I also met people I would never have met otherwise — and for that I am grateful.”  The Summit broadened Ben Lobo’s understanding of sustainability. “One thing about sustainability is the wide-ranging applications of sustainable companies like aquaculture…and how a lot of consideration goes into the placement and implementation of sustainable machinery,” Ben said.  

The Summit taught Izzy Perez about plastics. “What I learned about sustainability this week is that repurposing plastics can help species and reduce energy,” Izzy said. Lya Perez learned sustainability tricks from the Summit: “If you lower the thermostat, it will save you 5%. Washing dishes in a dishwasher is better than washing by hand,” she said.  The Summit was a wake-up call for Maria Rodriguez Serrano. “I discovered the real impact of our actions on the planet. I learned that there are so many things that we can do to save the planet, to try to stop the climate change. We just have to take action.”

Sustainability Best Practices Presentations & Sustainability-in-Action Projects

Wednesday was an inspiring day with presentations by youth delegates and sustainability leaders. Mary Ellen Hawkins, Community College of Rhode Island graduate presented Newport’s best sustainable practices and highlighted sustainability career paths and continuing education opportunities.  Newport youth delegate Mac Cullen spotlighted the Community Mesh Network he developed as an Eagle Scout after he saw the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico.  Summit Facilitator Namgyal Gyaltshen showed eye-opening graphs from Teaching Tolerance to highlight the direct correlation between poverty and the increased exposure to air pollution. Brown University student Estrella Rodriguez represented Sunrise Movement RI, a youth-led organization championing climate change with a direct political strategy — inviting everyone to vote!  Bailey Sweet, a rising senior at UMass Dartmouth, delivered an informative presentation on UMass Dartmouth’s leadership with the SouthCoast Partnership Development and plans for building the Blue Economy Corridor.  Bridget Burger shared how the Cape Cod Regional STEM Network brings together educators, school districts, business partners, and community members to create STEM eco-systems. She connected 500 blue companies with high school youth for  WaterWORKS Career Day.

In the afternoon, inspired by all these presentations, youth delegates teamed up with those from their communities to develop their Sustainability-In-Action projects.

What’s Your Five-Year Plan?

On Thursday youth learned about creating a Five-Year Plan. To inspire them, the Institute’s Emerging Leaders shared their journey of envisioning their Five-Year Plans – and how they’ve evolved over the years.  Delegates then worked in small groups to develop their own plans as well as their visions for their communities. After developing their Five-Year Plans, youth stretched themselves to imagine where they would like to be in 10 years.

Dona Bonnie: At age 25, I’ll be living off campus in an apartment either by myself or with a friend. My life goal is to be happy with my choices, healthy, and traveling. For my career I’ll be in med school at a great program, hopefully having an internship and a side job as a barista.

Ben Lobo: 10 years from now I will be in college to get the highest possible degree in Economy Law and Political Science to become a politician in my community and slowly try to ascend the political ladder. In my life, I hope I will be content wherever I am and I will be less socially awkward and be more brave, have more confidence.

Leaslie Perez: The Summit was a great way to help the youth find a path for their next steps in life.  When we first talked about our 5 year plan, not many kids think about where they’re going to be in 5 years. It was great to imagine ourselves in 10 years and write down the steps to reach our goals.  This fall, I’m going to be a senior and the Summit helped me plan for my future with life skills, public speaking, time management, and how to use my artistic skills to help the community. It made me actually think about having a green or blue job in the future.  While I want to become a Graphic Designer, I can use my skills to help the community, the people, the land, and the water. 

College Field Trip: Community College of Rhode Island

Thursday afternoon we embarked on another adventure to CCRI.  For our first generation youth, it was their very first time on a college campus.  We chose this college since it can be a stepping stone to pursue higher education. Rhode Island Promise offers two years of free tuition to Rhode Island graduates who enroll immediately after high school, enroll full-time and maintain a 2.5 GPA.  Numbers of low-income students and students of color enrolling in CCRI full-time has more than doubled since the program began in the summer of 2017.  This is significant because one of the goals of the program is to encourage more under-served students to attend college, and to stay in college.

Summit Tech Team

Led by Martha’s Vineyard’s Emerging Leader, Chris Aring and Ilya Besancon, both seniors at Olin College of Engineering, the Summit Tech Team championed strategic projects for the Institute’s TouchStone Leaders Platform. Youth delegates like Micah Ortiz who aspire to career pathways in tech were invited to work alongside them during the Summit.  Cape Cod

High School senior, Jack McCoy and UMass Dartmouth senior Chibike Nwodim coded the newest sustainability site featuring free resources for youth and educators from videos, interactive games, contests, curriculums and learning tools: SustainabilityisFun.com

Chris, Ilya and the Institute’s Sustainability Coordinator, Trevor Tanaka led a Design-A-Thon with leaders of the Blue Economy – from CEOs, to Newport Mayor and New England academic institutions – who  were invited to engage in a deep exploration to shape the design of the Institute’s  Sustainable Workforce Development Network (SWDN).   For this User Design Experience, they crafted thought-provoking questions, received valuable first-hand testimonials and gained insight into how the SWDN can serve as an important bridge between students and blue companies.  It was a strong reminder that students not only need to be aware of blue opportunities, but they also need to be guided on these career pathways.  During the week, the Summit Tech Team integrated these findings from the User Design Experience and built a prototype presented at Summit Graduation.

“It was enlightening for me to learn how disconnected our student youth in our region are from our local industry and government incentive programs,” said Anthony Baro, PowerDocks LLC.  “We have an absolute  opportunity for Chambers of Commerce, working with local professional associations and organizations (i.e. from Blue Tech) and local government business development agencies, to engage united in an educational career and workforce development outreach program with our High Schools and Higher Ed Institutions. Students have high aspirations, helping them recognize and identify paths knowing what local industry and government incentive programs are, can offer them the opportunity to help them develop their dreams and ultimately ignite local communities with much needed solutions to local challenges. Blue Tech represents roughly 75% of the Earth footprint. Imagine what we can accomplish if we could develop the missing 50% capacity to address our

Blue Tech promise and challenges.”  He added, “I look forward to staying engaged and helping this great workforce development initiative.”

Summit Graduation!

At our Summit Graduation, youth were joined by parents, nominators, blue company executives, and university leaders.  Youth delegations shared their experiences from the Summit — a new knowledge about career pathways to sustainable jobs, a sense of optimism about being part of the solution to global challenges such as climate change, and a host of new friends who share an interest in strengthening their communities by setting personal and planetary goals.

SUCCESS: Our Performance Metrics

The Institute’s Performance Metrics measures 21st Century leadership skills: Communication, Teamwork, Conflict Resolution, Problem Solving, Adaptability, Critical Thinking, Project Management Skills, Goals, Motivation/Wellbeing, and Education.  Youth delegates take it before and after the Summit. We assess what they learned during the week.

  • Overall, scores increased by 32.67 points.
  • The most dramatic increase: Critical Thinking: group total jumped 5 points.
  • Maria greatest self-reported growth in all with an increase by 18 points.
  • Micah increased 14 points with greatest improvement in Motivation/Self Care

Sustainability Survey Results

Youth delegates took a Sustainability Survey before and after the Summit to help shape the Institute’s Sustainable Workforce Development Network. For many delegates the Summit was their first sustainability experience.  Some youth added or changed the UN Sustainable Development Goals that are relevant to their communities. Most felt more prepared for their next education/career steps. Their knowledge increased of resources to help with higher education or employment. Some added sustainability to their career interests.

We featured a slideshow — with music chosen by future choreographer, Ke-Shawn Bennett.

The Summit Tech Team presented their online projects, including the TouchStone Learning Tool: Dream Map™ and the Sustainable Workforce Development Kiosk prototype.  Our Mistress of Ceremonies, Elena Kissel Development Coordinator, closed the Summit Graduation by thanking our sponsors: “We appreciate your support and hope that you will continue to be a friend to the Stone Soup Leadership Institute.”

We enjoyed future chef Evelyn Diaz‘s cake.

“It was an honor to be part of the Summit,” said Evelyn.. “I got to meet wonderful people — delegates, mentors and all who made it possible. They were all a source of inspiration to learn more and move forward so I can help my community/ world to be a better

place. It opened the doors to look more clearly at what my professional dreams are.

2019 Summit Citations

Youth delegates read aloud citations from Mayor, Governor, U.S. Senator, and State Representative

Providence Mayor’s Deputy
Presented Citations to Lya & Leaslie Perez


Rhode Island

  • Governor Gina Raimondo
  • Newport Mayor Jamie Bova
  • Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza
  • U.S. Senator Jack Reed
  • U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
  • U.S. Representative David Cicilline
  • U.S. Representative Jim Langevin

“With the many interesting and unique activities throughout the week, meeting the wide range of amazing people from different backgrounds provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” said Newport delegate Mac Cullen. “Although we were only together for a week, we were able to develop long-lasting friendships that will last a lifetime.”

“When I saw the cheerful faces of my Newport nominees at the Summit Graduation, I felt very proud and joyful,” said Lola Herrera.  These young people were so inspired by the Summit. After this great experience, something in their minds changed. ‘There is an ocean that we have to take care,’ said one youth. ‘I see now that I can change my way of thinking and have a better and brilliant future.’ It is very important for Newport to have Stone Soup Institute Leadership Institute to guide our youth to a better future. Thanks for choosing to be here.”

“It was such an amazing experience,” said Newport youth delegate Maria Rodriguez. “Before the Summit I was feeling so lost.  This was just what I needed, the light I was looking for. Now I feel confident and motivated. I have the power to change the world with my actions. That’s one thing I learned at the Summit. I now know what sustainability is and I will include it in my life style.  Who knows maybe I’m the next one who creates a project to save the world!”

“Our son’s week as a Summit delegate was an extraordinary opportunity to work with a diverse group of youth from around our region, students he otherwise never would have had the chance to meet,” said Mac Cullen’s mother Beth.  “Attending an all-boys college prep high school often leads to a narrowing of one’s perspective. Spending a week working, playing, and exploring sustainable concepts –alongside young people from varied backgrounds and viewpoints — gave our son a broader, more tolerant outlook that I’m sure he will carry forward. Thanks to the Institute for using your gifts of inspiration and optimism to deconstruct outmoded social barriers. By bringing together promising youth, from all walks of life, you are building a  needed talent pool of confident leaders, prepared to take on the myriad of economic, environmental, and social problems our world faces!”

 I do think The Institute’s program has great potential and will be happy to express my support,” said Inspire Environmental CEO Drew Carey. It takes time to understand the program and see how it has such a dramatic effect on deserving young people. I was very impressed!”

2019 Summit Youth Delegates
Newport, RI: Mac Cullen, Evelin Perez Diaz,  Ismerlin Perez, Maria Rodriguez Serra

Providence, RI: Lya Perez, Leaslie Perez

New Bedford, MA: Dona Bonnie, Ke-Shawn      Bennett, Benjamin Lobo,  Micah Ortiz

 UMass Dartmouth Chibike Nwodim Bailey Sweet

Boston, MA: Vikiana Petit-Homme

Cape Cod, MA: Jack McCoy

Many Thanks to All Our Supporters

Newport Supporters
Mayor Jamie Bova
Alice Bouman
Katie McDonald
Clean Ocean Access
Community College of Rhode Island
Innovate Newport
Inspire Environmental
International School of Technology & Trades
Matunuck Oyster Farm
Newport County Mentor/Co-Op Group
Newport Public Schools, Rhode Island’s
College + Career Pathways Coordinator
Rhode Island Marine Trade Association
Sail Newport
Salve Regina University, Center Business Outreach
Sunrise Movement RI
Univ of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center

New Bedford Supporters

Chancellor Robert Johnson, UMass, Dartmouth
Hugh Dunn, SouthCoast Partnership Development
Jim Oliveria, MASS Hire Greater New Bedford
Alex Fowler, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
New Bedford High School
Joyce Cardoza, Meg Carr and Jose Edwards

The Institute’s Summit Faculty & Team

  • Trevor Tanaka, Sustainability Coordinator
  • Chris Aring, TouchStone Leaders Platform Project
  • Ilya Besancon, Summit Tech Team
  • Kutasha Silva, TouchStone Leaders Facilitators
  • Namgyal Gyaltshen, Summit Facilitator Providence
  • Taynara Goncalves, Facilitator Martha’s Vineyard
  • Lola Herrera: Newport Advisory: Working Cities
  • Berta Paleaz, Multicultural Community Relations
  • Mary Ellen Hawkins, Sustainable Guest Speakers
  • Kaylynn Polley, Sustainable Tour Coordinator
  • Emily Garland, Grant writer
  • Carli Lynch, Videographer
  • Elena Kissel, Development Coordinator
  • Executive Director: Marianne Larned