HistoryMiami Museum is proud to announce it is one of eight Smithsonian Affiliates across the country collaborating on Earth Optimism Youth Action and Leadership for Sustainable Communities (EOYAL), an educational program designed to empower high school students to take environmental action on issues facing their community. HistoryMiami Museum is the only Affiliate participating from Florida in this two-year initiative supported by the Smithsonian. 

Over the course of 2022-2024, HistoryMiami will work with two groups of high school students and their teachers from Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Together with matching funding from HistoryMiami, the Smithsonian will assist HistoryMiami with the funding for field trips, educator stipends, teacher training, seed funding for student action projects, paid student internships, guest speaker honoraria, and mentorship. The program’s overarching goal is to empower students, specifically schools in vulnerable neighborhoods, who stand to suffer disproportionately from climate change.  

“HistoryMiami Museum is excited to partner with the Smithsonian, Smithsonian Affiliate organizations and two Miami-Dade County public high schools on the Earth Optimism Youth Action and Leadership for Sustainable Communities project to deep dive into environmental education,” HistoryMiami’s Manager of Education and School Initiatives, Olgasabrina Rueda, said.  “Students will take on leadership roles and explore current environmental issues facing their communities and will engage with local and national stakeholders as they create solutions to support local communities.” 

By building students’ environmental and justice literacy, and giving them opportunities to practice leadership skills, the Smithsonian, HistoryMiami, and the other Smithsonian Affiliates aim to engender future generations of change makers. Earth Optimism is rooted in hope for the future and focused on all the ways that everyone can become an environmental citizen. 

“Research shows that young people are experiencing high levels of eco-anxiety today. And yet, their knowledge of the causes of climate change and ecological degradation, and the range of successful solutions for a variety of environmental challenges, is limited,” said Brian Coyle and Jennifer Brundage, EOYAL co-directors and Smithsonian staff. “By collaborating with its trusted partners in communities across the U.S., the Smithsonian intends to build a community of practice that provides educators with high-quality resources for teaching and developing environmental leaders and provides students with crucial support to become the changemakers we need them to be in their communities.” 

With the help of mentors, student teams in each city will design an action plan for a specific issue that they will present to a jury of Smithsonian scientists and educators. Student teams will receive seed funding to execute their projects at the community level during the spring semester, and their efforts will be publicized on Smithsonian websites and social media platforms. Additionally, one student from each participating city will receive a paid summer internship to pursue their interest in conservation and sustainability. In addition to HistoryMiami the cohort includes Smithsonian Affiliates in San Francisco, Calif.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Bozeman, Mont.; Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; Dubuque, Iowa; Raleigh, N.C.; and Baltimore, Md. In August 2023, the Smithsonian will host a summit for educators from across the country at its Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland, to discuss the effectiveness of resources, the impact of student actions, and methods for scaling the effort to more schools and communities. 

The Earth Optimism Youth Action and Leadership for Sustainable Communities program (EOYAL) is made possible by the Jeff Bezos gift to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.