Last summer, Richmond youth spent 6 weeks learning and taking action as part of our annual APEN Academy.

Ten young people from ages 13-17 participated in workshops on everything from social and environmental justice to grassroots fundraising and communications.But this wasn’t a normal summer school. Their education extended to the neighborhoods where the youth did outreach recruiting people to attend the Richmond Our Power Festival, a summer event meant to showcase all the ways Richmond shines and bring the community for food, fun and culture, while connecting them to organizations bringing a just transition to Richmond. The young people also spoke truth to power in lobby visits with state legislators, created art and designed activities for the Our Power Festival, gardened, joined exchanges with other organizations and led a youth retreat to choose a youth campaign. At the end of the academy, several of the youth stayed on as our first batch of APEN youth interns, who are helping to continue leading the work and recruiting new leaders.

Check out what our youth had to say about the APEN Academy and Richmond Our Power Festival! To see more photos, click here for our Storify.

“I learned about campaigns to make Richmond 100% renewable energy and how as a Richmond resident, I can influence local electeds to vote yes or no on a bill. APEN introduced me to new concepts on how the industry, capitalism, and white male superiority affects us all.” -Ahllain


“The Our Power Festival brought together people that cared about the environment and also people who wanted to make the city better. It changed how I saw the world and how I felt about the people around me. The impact that APEN had on me was powerful.” -Tiffany


“The summer academy was an eye-opening experience. It inspired me to spread the word of the environmental injustice in my community. Joining the program reinforced the appreciation I have for my community, despite its urban decay and helped me develop my voice and stronger care for my environment.” –Joanah


“The APEN internship was such an enlightening experience. It personally gave me hope for the future especially during all of the tough times we as a nation are going through. My focus was to become a doctor, but having done APEN, I may want to study something closer to what APEN focuses on. I loved and still love APEN.” -Luzbeydi