By Audubon North Carolina intern Daija Graves
College students attended Audubon’s free advocacy training event in Morganton, North Carolina Feb. 1 and gained valuable information to take back to their respective campuses to make a difference.
The Advocacy Training program equipped participants with skills to promote clean energy and to work on behalf of birds and the habitat they need. Attendees learned how to start petitions and communicate with legislators. The educational programming was based on organizing techniques created collaboratively by the Midwest Academy, a training school for community organizers, and national and state Audubon staff.
Audubon has 25 active collegiate chapters across the country – including UNC Asheville and Appalachian State University – that are organized by young bird lovers who are passionate about protecting birds and the environment.
College students are becoming heavily involved with wildlife conservation and environmental advocacy, including Sarah Ramsey, President of the Audubon Chapter at Appalachian State and a participant in Audubon’s advocacy training. “I learned how to effectively power map and gather petition signatures,” Ramsey said. “This was extremely helpful for me since I am thinking seriously about going into advocacy and lobby work.”
Ramsey is a communications studies major with a minor in political science. She is very passionate about the environment.
“I learned how to effectively recruit and keep members active and excited,” Ramsey said. “Since we are a very new club it is important that we create a strong base to hold the club through until we have more members.”
Participants at the event worked together on several exercises to practice how to approach environmental issues with legislators.
“The most interesting part of the day was breaking up into small groups and working on power mapping,” Ramsey said. “It was great to see how differently people think, but how together we can get things done efficiently because our differences in return make us powerful.”
Ramsey continued, “Since the passion is so strong all that was missing was some background knowledge on how to be an active advocate. The advocacy event gave passionate, like-minded people the information they need to effectively advocate for birds as well as the environment.”
Kristin Anderson, President of the Audubon Chapter at UNC Asheville, is planning to host events on her campus to get young birders involved. “We plan to participate in GreenFest,” she said. “It's a week-long event that we have at my school that is hosted by the Student Government Association and the Student Environmental Center. Our Audubon Chapter will be represented there, and we will host a guided bird walk for students interested in learning about different calls they hear around campus.”
Anderson has been an animal lover since she was a little kid, and she finds penguins to be adorable. She stated that finances can deter people from getting into birding because some of the tools you need, such as binoculars, spotting scopes, and field guides.
“I wish that there was a grant or scholarship provided to young people wanting to get involved in birding, because it can become expensive,” Anderson said.
I second that. As a college student, finances can be pretty tight and it would be beneficial to young bird lovers to receive funding to get started.
“I am very excited to put what I learned to work and start a discussion with politicians so that we can start working collectively to combat climate change,” Ramsey said.
Anderson suggested the advocacy training course should become an annual event, because she gained so much knowledge.
Anderson attended the 3rd annual Audubon North Carolina Lobby Day on March 26 alongside members of the Audubon Chapter at University of North Carolina at Asheville.
“I think the thing from the advocacy training that I found the most helpful was the advice to try to find common ground and make a personal connection with legislators,” Anderson said.