OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Building the next generation of climate leaders

The Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) believes that to scale the rapid transition to renewable energy, we must educate young people about the science behind climate change, give them the opportunity to understand how climate change affects them on a local to global scale, orient them to climate solutions, like renewable energy, and give them the skills, tools and resources to lead on these solutions in their communities now and in the future. Ask yourself: What if young people make climate action the true social movement of our time? ACE believes youth have the most to lose when it comes to climate change, and the most to gain by fighting it. We help them take control of their futures.

Photo of Katherine Frazier-Archila
6 7

Written by

Founded in 2008, ACE’s mission is to educate, inspire and activate the leadership of high school students to address climate change. Our vision is that one day, every teenager in America will understand climate change and take part in the solutions.
Only 15% of the general public is very worried about climate change. ACE addresses a lack of climate urgency by creating a diverse community of readiness on this issue among young people. We focus on two things. First, we teach climate science that puts young people at the center of the story. Our live in-school assemblies combine airtight science with pop-culture entertainment. The assembly program has proven to be a powerful entry point for students to engage with climate change for the first time. Second, we give every student a chance to take action. For some, that is a small lifestyle change. For others, it is hands-on preparation for a lifetime of leadership. ACE has educated over 1.8 million students in schools across America and has trained thousands of new and diverse leaders, giving young people the skills they need to speak up and tell their unique stories.
The Millennial generation (those born from 1977 to 1995), represent about 25% of the U.S. population and more than $200 billion in annual purchasing power. By 2050, an estimated 54% of the U.S. population will be people of color. ACE's unique focus on reaching young people of color on climate (more than 60% of ACE’s student base is diverse), positions us to be an incredible asset to the climate movement, specifically the movement to build political will for the transition to a renewable energy economy
What are ACE student leaders already doing to contribute to renewable energy solutions?

-     In New England, students receive training from ACE and our regional partner Next Step Living (NSL) on how to talk about climate change and the importance of energy efficiency. Students recruit community members to sign up for home energy assessments, increasing the number of residents in local communities taking advantage of utility-funded Mass Save energy audits and the ensuing energy efficiency upgrades, provided by NSL. To date, ACE has educated 2,700 students with the ACE Assembly and trained over 30 students to lead on the energy project. ACE students like Grace Chin of Lincoln Sudbury High School went on to mobilize 134 households to conduct home energy assessments and 39 home weatherization jobs, representing an estimated household savings of $25,554 and 97 metric tons of greenhouse gas avoidance. This project not only increases energy efficiency in the community, but it also serves as a fundraiser for the school to support further climate projects. At Lincoln Sudbury, Grace and her team earned $1290 and used these funds to install a water bottle filling station to reduce plastic water bottle waste at their school.

- Kerry Brock, an ACE senior at Newton North High School in Boston, set the ambitious goal of seeing her home state of Massachusetts divest from fossil fuels. With coaching from ACE and our partners at the Boston Student Advisory Council and Better Future Project, Kerry testified at a youth-led hearing in November advocating for the City of Boston to pass a Divestment Resolution. After listening to Kerry and her peer’s testimony on the Expert Youth Panel, two days later Boston City Council passed the Divestment Resolution.

- ACE-trained youth leaders in NYC from the Bronx Design and Construction Academy were awarded $100,000 from the Zayed Foundation Future Energy Prize for leading energy solutions at their school. The students and their teacher went on to complete a successful crowdfunding campaign that will help them collect data and understand the performance of their rooftop solar photovoltaic system, the first of its kind on a New York City public school.

- In July, ACE student Lauren Smith testified at the EPA hearing in Atlanta in favor of the Clean Power Plan. The plan is groundbreaking in that it proposes to cut CO2 emissions in the US by 30% over the next 16 years. This was Lauren’s first time speaking at a public hearing and was one of the only teens in the room. Lauren recently had the opportunity to share about this experience through an interview on Southeast Green’s Speaking of Green radio show, the largest online news site for sustainability, green and environmental news in the Southeastern U.S.

We know our strategy to empower young people succeeds in motivating action. We teamed up with research experts at Yale, George Mason and Stanford Universities to evaluate the effectiveness of our assembly program. 2,847 students in 49 high schools across the country were surveyed before and after seeing an ACE Assembly. The study found that students became more knowledgeable about climate science after the assembly, felt more confident in their ability to take climate action, and changed their communication and conservation behavior as a result. 60% of students reported being more motivated to take action and to spread the word to family and friends after an ACE experience. This research was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change. You can access the full article for free here:
Teens have the power to not only influence their peers, but also shift their parent and family household energy consumption behavior. As one Nevada parent recently wrote to ACE: “This week, my son told me he wants to be an engineer because ACE helped him explore his ideas for low emission cars. He has made me take up recycling again, he has refused to allow me to purchase orange juice from Brazil or Mexico, and he showed me a video about what humans are doing to our Earth and its creatures. You are speaking straight to his heart. He is soaking it all in and applying it in his life."
When educated about the issue, young people have proven to be ready and willing to take action. Their voice and leadership is what is needed to move the needle on scaled renewable energy solutions.

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post

  • A combination of various types of renewable energy


Join the conversation:

Photo of Aaryaman Singhal

Hey Katherine,

I hadn't heard of ACE before but I think the organization has the right idea. I think I care about these issues because we discussed them at my school and home. Our teachers always encouraged us to recycle and turn out the lights. We also had discussions about climate change on Earth day. At home, my mom would ask me to sort recyclable materials and take them to the curb.

Because of these experiences when I was younger, I never saw turning out lights or sorting recyclables as inconvenient.

Youth are the future and the more of them that champion environmental issues, the easier it becomes for other to follow. Right now, the movement is still in its early days; it isn't mainstream. But by working with kids, the movement can become mainstream.

Does ACE work with students before high school? How does ACE put people in the story and give them a chance to make a difference?

Photo of Katherine Frazier-Archila

Hi Aaryaman - thanks for sharing your experience! I love hearing that you never found being environmentally responsible inconvenient, since you were introduced to and educated on the issues from a young age. That is directly in line with why ACE targets this specific age group!

To your questions: we do reach some middle schools and have partnered with organizations such as Cool The Earth, who target even younger students in elementary school, but our core demographic for outreach and program delivery are high schoolers - ages 14 to 18.

Our assembly is designed to help young people connect the dots between the issues they care about and climate change, in a local to global way. For example, one of our students in Northern California saw the assembly and began to understand the intersections between climate and health. As a previous fast food enthusiast, he connected how the fast food industry as a whole can have negative impacts on both the climate and health through emissions from long-distance transportation. ACE gave him the opportunity to explore these issues in local ACE leadership workshops, he took the issue on for his year-long senior project, and even gave a presentation on food, climate and health to a group of over 200 of his peers after an ACE Assembly in San Francisco in January. Now Brandon is pursuing environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz and is working with CA Rep. Mike Honda to advocate for accessible climate education for all students. ACE presents climate science in a way that draws young people in and shows them the role climate change plays in their life.

Photo of Aaryaman Singhal

Hey Katherine,

I like that ACE allows people to connect environmental issues to issues other issues they care about without connecting the issues for them. The process of self-discovery makes the issues more pressing and exciting to engage with. Environmental issues are closely related to food, health, water, habitats, energy, technology, business, etc. Pretty much everything we do affects the environment, and we can usually make that impact less harmful/more beneficial.

Photo of Katherine Frazier-Archila

Agreed - thanks, Aaryaman!

Photo of Selina McPherson

Hi Katherine,

Welcome to OpenIdeo and great post! Wow! I love the specific stories you shared to really bring ACE to life. I think it is so important to involve younger generations in the conversations and solutions around climate change, developing more awareness at an early age. It can completely change life's course, as you highlight with the story of the Nevada family.

I hope we'll see more of you throughout the challenge!

Photo of Katherine Frazier-Archila

Hi Selina - thanks so much for the warm welcome! We're really excited to be a part of the challenge and look forward to hearing ideas from other individuals and organizations throughout the process as well!