Youth Mentorship & Environmental Stewardship
Building Agency & Social Support for Future Generations
YMES connects young adults with inspiring role models and peer mentors in the environmental stewardship field—actively engaging them with "real talk" and "real action" to spark hope, courage, and resilience in the face of climate change.
Youth mental health is a rapidly growing crisis around the world.
A warming planet. Extreme natural disasters. Political polarization. Species extinction. Pollution. Deforestation. Violence, war, and displacement.
These tragedies, when compounded by broader-than-ever media coverage, can leave us all with feelings of despair. Burnout, climate anxiety, and climate grief are all being felt. Children, teens, and young adults (the current "Generation Z") are especially affected, with high levels of mental distress. And, for activists, advocates, students, and environmental protectors who seek to bring about change, it can be easy to feel that our efforts aren't making a difference.
Fostering connection through mentorship is a simple, but effective, solution.
Through intentional, compassionate mentorship, we work to create spaces where we can talk honestly and openly with each other about our worldly fears, hopes and aspirations, and doubts about ourselves. Initiating those conversations is important: if we don’t talk, we risk increased feelings of isolation, powerlessness, and hopelessness. When this "real talk" is paired with "real action" via community-based projects, young adults can feel not only seen and heard in their experiences, but capable of doing something about the problem and a sense of belonging alongside others doing the same.
In these ways and more, mentorship provides critical social support to youth bearing the emotional toll of climate change and other global problems.
My mentor set me on a different path. One in which my heart plays as much a role in my choices as my head does. Our quiet talks have taught me infinitely more about the world and my place in it than any curriculum ever could.
Countless Benefits, Backed By Science
From the personal stories of our mentored pairs, we know that this approach works. But the benefits of mentorship are also backed by scientific studies.
Researchers across disciplines have found that
mentoring is a key contributor to individual development, professional performance, and well-being(1). More importantly, mentorship is significantly related to favorable behavioral, attitudinal, health-related, interpersonal, motivational, and career outcomes (2).
And, when we look at the bigger picture, we can see how mentoring youth with an environmental lens impacts much more than the individual: it has positive ripple effects across the social and environmental ecosystems.
Co-benefits of working at the climate change, mental health, children/youth intersection.
Copyright 2021 by Gislason, M. K., Kennedy, A. M., & Witham, S. M.,
open access article CC BY 4.0.
By creating deep mentorship connections on personal and professional levels, we can foster resilience in the spirits of young and old alike, and continue to solve the problems of our time—together.
Experience. Leadership. Compassion.
Our YMES mentor consultants are carefully vetted not only for their environmental expertise, but also for their experience and/or professional skills as adult mentors to youth.
Lindsey Walker is passionate about her home and environment in Northern Michigan, and has been a professional with Emmet County Recycling since 2007. Lindsey is also an elected official in her hometown of Petoskey working towards a Sustainable Community future, holding a master’s degree in Sustainable Development and Management from the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont and an undergraduate degree in women’s studies from Antioch College, Yellow Springs, OH. Her areas of environmental expertise in all things “waste diversion” and conservation emphasize wise use, reuse, and recycling, and includes her overseesing the commercial recycling and food scrap collection and composting program, work on feedstock development and compost sales, and working on the State level thru the Michigan Recycling Coalition & NextCycle Michigan. She is now the co-chair of the Michigan Organics Council. For years Lindsey has served in a mentorship role for college students in Environmental and Sustainability Studies at North Central Michigan College in Petoskey Michigan. She is a favorite with the college students, pursuing in philosophy and practice the deep valuation of the unique gifts each young person has, helping them to realize their self-worth and value, no matter what the personal life challenges they face. She is an inspiration for young people and us all, with her unceasing energy, humility, laughter and good humor.
Kristen is a health and wellness coach with over a decade of experience working with children, families, and individuals of all ages. She has served as mental health specialist at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital providing emotional support and psycho-education to patients undergoing medical detox. While there, she was able to utilize her prior experience teaching yoga to pilot a class series aimed at managing symptoms of anxiety and depression within the adolescent intensive outpatient program. As a certified Child Life Specialist, Kristen’s mission was to alleviate the trauma of hospitalization through developmentally appropriate education, medical preparation, coping skills and play – primarily on the oncology and bone marrow transplant unit. An outdoor enthusiast to her core, she believes in the healing power of nature and that connecting to the wonder and magnificence of our natural environment can connect us to the wonder and magnificence within ourselves. Kristen is devoted to helping people create and live meaningful, passionate, purpose-driven lives that they absolutely love!
Loren Stewart served for over 20 years as a resident and staff member of the Findhorn Community in Scotland. He is passionate about understanding and clarifying the subtle dynamics of the group process, and has done extensive work facilitating men's groups and other gatherings. Loren’s attentiveness to the ebb and flow, his sparkling insights to the challenges, and his ability to cut through to the core has helped shift groups from chaos to consensus. Loren’s sense of humor, his intuitive heart and his great smile help to create a safe place for all to share.
Lori Lemon has distinguished careers in both military service and also as a civilian mental health specialist. During her 27 years as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves she received numerous awards, medals, and professional recognition for her outstanding achievements. Ms. Lemon simultaneously maintained a full-time career in the mental health field for 17 years, first as a social worker, and later as a clinical psychologist. In this role, she conducted psychological assessments and provided individual counseling and group psychotherapy with multiple clinical populations to include: addictions, grief and loss, divorce recovery, family and relationship issues, dementia patients and their families, and recovery from sexual assault. She has active training and professional experience as a mentor, and brings her warmth, humor, and down-to-earth practicality to every relationship.
Seamus is the originator of YMES, the director of Tara’s Meadow nonprofit, and founding professor for Environmental & Sustainability Studies at North Central Michigan College. Seamus has 30 years of experience teaching and mentoring high school and college age young adults in Environmental Sustainability, utilizing the mentorship approaches of Jon Young, Patrick O’Neill, and others. He also served for 7 years as the distinguished spiritual mentor at the request of a local therapist for men’s therapy groups. Seamus combines his vision and passion, along with his warmth and wisdom as a leader in this field, emerging from many years of experience with youth mentorship and environmental stewardship.