Volunteer keynote panel led by inspiring young activists


Speakers onstage for the volunteer keynote panel at June 2023 CCL conference

Volunteer keynote panel led by inspiring young activists

By Samantha Johnstone

CCL attendees to the June 2023 Conference had the honor of listening to a volunteer keynote panel facilitated by Steffanie Munguía, our Student Engagement Manager. Featured on stage was Minerve Jean, Evan Wright, Emily O’Keefe and Karishma Goswami; four young climate advocates with inspiring stories of how they got involved with CCL and the climate movement. 

Read on for a recap or watch here:

Optimism in action

Kicking off the panel was Emily O’Keefe, an undergraduate at William and Mary and founder and president of the Carbon Fee and Dividend Movement. First introduced to CCL by the president of the William and Mary CCL chapter, O’Keefe found solace in actual solutions. 

“I got really into caring about the planet after I got into minimalism, as it completely shifted my values … but I also got really scared, and I was in deep despair,” O’Keefe said. “CCL showed me that we have actual solutions, and there’s a way to achieve them. And that really eased my climate anxiety, and I’m very thankful for that.”

While O’Keefe’s beginnings as an environmentalist are fairly recent, Evan Wright has valued conservation for as long as he can remember. As a kid, his father would take him horseback riding and fishing, developing a valuable relationship with the Earth and pushing him to want to protect it. 

“But I just never really felt like I had a place to call home when it came to climate advocacy, because it just seemed like really angry people yelling at the time and saying ‘everything is doomed anyways,’” Wright said. “CCL is an optimistic place to call home, as we can help find solutions and common ground.”

Belonging in the climate movement

CCL’s inclusivity and optimism was emphasized by all of the keynote speakers, showing the great lengths CCL goes to foster a supportive culture. Minerve Jean, CCL’s current Diversity and Inclusion Fellow and co-action team leader of the Climate and Culture Action Team is one of the many leaders working to make CCL an inclusive space. 

“One of the most important things about CCL’s leadership, and especially with the team I’ve worked with, is the sense of community and the safe space I’ve been provided with to exercise my voice,” Jean said. “I’m able to continue initiatives that I’m really passionate about because I’m given the platform, the safe space and the encouragement and direction to do so.”

But CCL’s inclusivity goes beyond leaders, and extends to every member of CCL. The feeling of “self belonging” was emphasized by Karishma Goswami, former National Youth Action Team Leader and Silicon Valley North Chapter Leader. She joined CCL as a freshman in high school, after meeting with a CCL representative who spoke at her school. The weekend she joined, there was a conference in California and two chapter members offered to drive her to the conference and lead her around. 

“They introduced me to everyone that they knew and they took me to all of the different keynote panels,” Goswami said. “To not have to go through that alone … especially as a 14, 15 year old — it was just amazing the community I immediately saw in CCL and how they supported me every step of the way.”

In addition to creating a kind, supportive community, Goswami emphasized CCL’s mission to intentionally and continually ensure diversity amongst chapters in regards to age, race, political affiliation, etc. 

“We worked really hard to get youth involved, and we created what we call a ‘presentation toolkit’ which essentially has slides, instructions, speeches — everything you need to give a presentation at high school, so that anyone could do it” Goswami said. “We also actively started using social media as a tool to bring in more youth, and with the youth blog I tried my best to spotlight conservatives and people of other races.”

Munguía chimed in, explaining that “cultured building is really an intentional act, it is not something that happens passively.” In Goswami’s case, she held periodic check-ins with action team leaders to ensure they were targeting certain demographics and groups, actively working to diversify the chapter. For Jean, she found that keeping an open mind and willingness to learn is one of the most important skills for CCL members to have 

“Acknowledging and validating different climate experience helps to ensure that we are all workings towards the same goal, and not taking anything away from people or making their experiences feel less than,” Jean said, “We want everyone to be at the table of climate solutions where everyone is equal, and everyone is able to have an opinion.”

Maintaining the momentum

In addition to a sense of inclusivity, Wright stressed the importance of CCLers having persistence. 

“Persistence and understanding that there is a long term vision, one that is not going to be this year, or next year but rather eventually that things will change in a positive direction is important,” Wright said. “You may not feel that there’s no direct change in a member’s policy [when you lobby], but you might be making an impact on the staffer that you’re talking to, who might even go on to run for office themselves or at least gain knowledge that they didn’t know before.”

Goswami added that having smaller goals can help prevent burnout by installing values of success. 

“When you have an issue that is so, so big, I don’t think any of us are really going to feel like we’ve accomplished all that much, because the changes we want to see are just so massive. So I think it’s really important to focus on the smaller steps and acknowledge that each of our little contributions add up to something larger,” Goswami said.

“Exactly, I think that one of the things that makes me happiest is just looking across the room and seeing that I’m not the only one fighting for this,” Jean said. “There are so many other people fighting for that same goal, and CCL is a wonderful way to connect with those people.”


Samantha Johnstone is an intern with CCL’s Communications team. Class of 2026 at Cornell University, she is studying Environment & Sustainability with an emphasis in environmental humanities and a minor in communications. Originally from the Bay Area, she is part of the San Mateo County CCL Chapter.