Hello Readers and welcome to 2023. I’ve reprinted, with permission, the United Student Leaders newsletter from outgoing co-founder Maggie Nattress. She is taking a gap year to decide her next role in life. Thank you, Maggie, for your inspiration and that of United Student Leaders! Thanks for making a difference. David Welton took the banner photo–Kate Poss
Since September of 2019, United Student Leaders has been an organization focused on uplifting youth voices. For those of you who have been here since the beginning, you may still remember our first protest in front of JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo banks. I personally remember being way too nervous to talk in front of the 150 of you that turned out that day. Instead, I forced Annie Philp, the other co-founder of USL, to get up and give her speech on her own. How things have changed!
The reason why I am reminiscing in this email to you is because, as of June 4th, 2022, I have officially graduated from South Whidbey High School! I also turned 19-years-old as of this November. While this is exciting news, it also means that I will be going off into the world and enacting my own plans over the next few years, something that does not give much room for organizing with USL. I am currently writing to you from the state of New York, on the land of the Seneca tribe, as I have officially started my gap year of travel before heading off to college!
Over the past three years, I have been able to learn so much, from the mentors and activists that have taught and supported USL, to the students who have been leading alongside me. I have gained skills in public speaking, community engagement, teamwork, policy making, and grassroots organizing. Thank you so much to everyone who I have been able to talk with, email with, see on Zoom, and who has joined us in the streets. I will miss you all dearly—none of what has happened in the last three years could have happened without your constant support.
As I sign off, I wanted to highlight one of the most important things I have learned over the past few years: the importance of intersectionality. That it is not only the climate crisis, or racism, or LGBTQIA+ issues that we must focus on, but how these very issues overlap and interact with one another. And that one of the best ways to enact change in these areas is to include people with lenses different from our own. This is vital to remember as new USL members begin to take over for the founders. Just because I am leaving USL, this does not mean that all of our work is coming to an end. In fact, it means the opposite. I am so very inspired by, and hopeful for, the up-and-coming USL members, and all that they will be able to bring to USL that I could not.
This is why the second half of this email is even more important than my goodbye. It is my pleasure to introduce Kjersti–pronounced KEER-stee– Ringsrud (she/they) as the next USL member who will be in charge of public relations. Kjersti is currently a sophomore at South Whidbey High School, and has already been diving straight into the action!
One reason why they will be taking over as the next direct contact for the USL email list is because most of the core USL members are now seniors, and will be graduating in 2023. As Kjersti will not be graduating until 2025, our hope is that you won’t need to switch up your USL contact again anytime soon. I also want to emphasize that Kjersti has quickly demonstrated the key components of leadership, consistently and energetically showing up every week. Ever since Kjersti joined this last year, she is open to opportunities for USL to grow, and has quickly and eagerly become a core member. I can’t wait to see what they will accomplish in the next few years!
This will be the last email from me, future emails will be coming from firstname.lastname@example.org. While this is a big change for all of us, you can help make this transition easier on your end by adding Kjersti to your address book and/or whitelist so you can continue to receive communications from United Student Leaders!
Going forward, please contact USL at this new email address. However, if you have contacted USL in the past month, we will send one reply to you via the old USL email address.
Thank you again for your support, passion, and kindness over the past three years! I will miss talking, emailing, and organizing with you, but know that you are in good hands with the current leadership of United Student Leaders. Our core members are Jackson Murphy, Torrey Green, and Kjersti Ringsrud, who have been leading USL since June of 2022. They are accompanied by Maddy, Claire, Naomi, Audrey, Simone, Sophia, Molly, Lily, Trevor and other youth members.
And from Kiersti Ringsrud on Jan. 6, 2023:
I hope that you had a relaxing holiday break. As you know, Maggie recently officially stepped away from USL to pursue her own plans outside of high school. I am excited to say that I will be stepping up in her place to head USL’s public relations and be the official direct contact for USL’s emails.
Since I joined USL last year, I have been involved in the electric school bus event, planning the most recent Fridays for the Future walkout, and encouraging Island County to pass a declaration of climate emergency. Over the past few months I have been focusing on my involvement in USL and recently stepped up to the core team, which now consists of Jackson Murphy, Torrey Green, and I. As a sophomore, I am the youngest member of the core team and the only one not graduating next year, so I am preparing to help lead USL once Jackson and Torrey have graduated. I am currently in the process of joining the Langley Climate Crisis Action Committee as a representative of USL, and I want to continue to build as many connections within our community as I can.
I offered to be the new direct contact for USL because I will be a part of USL well into the future. I also believe that one of my most important jobs as a member of USL is to connect with the community and other organizations. To address the climate crisis with a lens of intersectionality, it is crucial that USL works closely with community members to bring about the best possible future for all of us. As the head of public relations, I can focus on building and solidifying those connections and continuing to deepen USL’s connections within the community.
USL is continuing to work to make a difference in the world. Lately, we have been preparing to move forward with addressing the climate resolution passed by Island County and continuing our meetings with the school district. We also recently became an approved environmental partner of 1% for the Planet.
P.S. Our next community meeting will be on Friday, January 13th.