Durango students are first to receive Seal of Climate Literacy Diploma

DENVERMay 22, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Lyra, the Denver-based nonprofit that incubates and accelerates high-impact initiatives that tackle some of the biggest challenges facing education, is celebrating the signing of one of its signature legislative initiatives in Colorado, Senate Bill 24-014 ("Seal of Climate Literacy Diploma Endorsement").

Sponsored by Colorado Sen. Chris Hansen and Colorado Rep. Barbara McLachlan, SB24-014 authorizes school districts and other local education providers in Colorado to offer a diploma endorsement that recognizes students who have achieved climate literacy by completing a high school science class and another course that touch on issues related to climate change, combined with hands-on experiential learning that will help them be better prepared for college, the military or the workforce. Individual school districts will maintain local control of the endorsement by determining what course work and other criteria are required for their students.

"As a legislator, I spend a lot of time thinking about the future of Colorado and how we are preparing youth for jobs in an economy increasingly impacted by the changing climate," said Colorado Sen. Chris Hansen. "The legislation establishing a Seal of Climate Literacy is one way that we can make sure that high school students, not just in areas like Denver but across the state, are being exposed to and starting to prepare for these new career opportunities. I am excited that Colorado can pave the way on legislation that has applications to states across the country."

"Young people will bear the brunt of climate change, which will create significant personal and professional changes for Coloradans, including farmers, ranchers, outdoor recreation industry employees and oil and gas workers," said Mary Seawell, founder and CEO of Lyra. "To support these students, Lyra has helped champion Colorado Senate Bill 24-014, the 'Seal of Climate Literacy' diploma endorsement for high school students who have met certain academic requirements in the areas of coursework and a hands-on learning project, such as a capstone or internship."

Later this week, the first Colorado students to receive the diploma endorsement include 15 students from Durango High School and one student from Big Picture High School.

Climate Seal students at DHS

Above, Durango High School students show their Seal of Climate Literacy certificates during a ceremony before a graduation rehearsal at DHS on May 23, 2024. (Photo: Durango School District)

"We are honored to be the first district in Colorado to confer the Seal of Climate Literacy to our very deserving students. These students are committed to making a positive impact on their environment, their community and our planet," said Dr. Karen Cheser, Superintendent of Durango 9-R in Southwest Colorado. "We expect that many of them will go on to work in environmental science, building green skills and supporting a sustainable society. They are exemplifying our Durango School District Portrait of a Graduate competencies."

Students from Durango 9-R were already well poised to receive the Seal of Climate Literacy this spring thanks to their leadership of Green Teams and Earth Day efforts within their high school.

Mia earns Climate Seal

Above, Big Picture High School Samantha Tower awards the Seal of Climate Literacy to Michaela Richardson during the BPHS Graduation Ceremony on May 23, 2024. (Photo: Durango School District)

Weiming Lambert, a graduating senior at Durango High School who will receive the Seal of Climate Literacy, reflected on what the diploma endorsement signifies to them, "Taking the classes and completing the projects to receive the Seal of Climate Literacy empowers students to become environmental leaders. It teaches students skills and knowledge so we can advocate for sustainable practices within our communities, which drives positive environmental change, creating a more equal future for everyone."

Aisha O'Neil, also a graduating senior at Durango High School who will receive the diploma endorsement this spring, has led the school's Green Team and more recently launched a statewide student network called Good Trouble. She shares, "Being awarded the Seal of Climate Literacy both made me feel as though my work for the environment is truly valued in my community and that I can find a real career path within this passion."

DHS Student Aisha O'Neil

Above, Durango High School graduating senior Aisha O'Neil, led the effort to bring the Seal of Climate Literacy to Durango School District. (Photo: Durango School District)

Students perceive attainment of the Seal of Climate Literacy could also translate to better job prospects. Natalie Obleton, a graduating senior at Durango High School and member of the Good Trouble Climate Collective, shared, "Many businesses strive to become more sustainable but do not have the time nor the resources to educate themselves on how to do so. The Seal of Climate Literacy can appeal to a very wide range of jobs since it shows that you have the knowledge and the qualifications to make environmentally informed decisions for your workplace."

This student voice was the driving force for Colorado Rep. McLachlan to co-sponsor SB 24-014 this legislative session.

"When students are engaged in a subject, really engaged, their comprehension, curiosity and achievement soar. The students pursuing a Seal of Climate Literacy diploma have chosen an educational path that aligns with their future goals," said Colorado Rep. Barbara McLachlan. "I am excited to see where they go and what they do with their knowledge and am so proud of their self-confidence and maturity. It has been fun to work with them."

Tammie Delaney, a rancher in the northwest Yampa Valley of the state, recognizes the value of what this education and experience for students means for rural communities who are already feeling the impacts of climate change.

"Growing up in Northwest Colorado means you are raised knowing how to grow, raise, produce, process, harvest and enjoy our food, and our agricultural producers understand the important connection great soil and water provide for our food systems," said Delaney, owner of the Hayden Granary. "Youth that know how to raise livestock and grow produce are indeed part of creating a more economically and environmentally resilient community, and we are proud that the agricultural education efforts in our region can be recognized through a Seal of Climate Literacy."

About Lyra

Lyra is a nonprofit organization that incubates and accelerates high-impact initiatives that tackle some of the biggest challenges facing education. Lyra's focus is on building coalitions and providing capacity, resources, infrastructure and expertise to partners with innovative ideas that lead to greater student and educator success. To achieve this, the organization works directly with students, teachers, parents, community leaders, industry caregivers, policymakers and funders. Learn more at www.lyracolorado.org.