By Co Lab Climate Hub Teens:  Carolina Jones, Moira Nolan, and Erika Harrington

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival was an incredible opportunity for us to finally connect off-screen and build connections!  Our Co Lab teens gathered together from all over the United States – traveling from California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and Virginia. The Co Lab hubs meet weekly (virtually) so this was the first time many of them have been able to meet in-person since the start of the COVID pandemic. It was a great way for the team to bond while taking action.

“I was so excited to get to participate in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Because I live in North Carolina, I could only attend the festival for one day, but it was an incredible experience. I got to meet other Hub teens in person that I’ve only ever interacted with online.  We had so much fun together! We danced around the festival wearing trashion show outfits and discussed our favorite topics – climate change, wildlife conservation, racial justice, and more. The group of people that I got to hang out with in person at the festival still keep in touch and we make time to hang out on a non SDG Hub basis.” – Carolina Jones, Climate Action Hub Ambassador

The Folklife Festival provided the opportunity to not only see each other but also connect with new like-minded individuals. We had two new recruits for the Climate Hub as a direct result of the festival, Erika and Moira. The group has really enjoyed getting to know them and spending time together in our weekly Hub meetings on climate change. The more people that join the Hub, the more projects we can work on and the more perspectives we can share. 

“I am so grateful for the Folklife Festival because I was able to learn more about different actions for climate change, I also got to meet people who I have only previously interacted with through a screen, and my Hub got a boost of new members – new passionate people with dreams and projects that we can work on together!” – Carolina Jones

It was also awesome to hear the stories of how the new members discovered the Co Lab! 

“I found out about this Hub while on vacation with my family at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. I remember accidentally coming upon this festival while on the search for something to eat. I remember walking around the stands with my bag of free stickers and an oversized water bottle, feeling sweaty and tired as we had already walked ten miles that day. It was my brother who found the SDGs stand, he was planting some sort of flower that did not survive the journey home. I remember asking one of the girls working this stand about the organization. She told me about the different Hubs, and that it is run by teens. I wanted to do something to take action against climate change, and that day I was given the opportunity.” Moira Nolan, New Climate Hub Member

“I was at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival out of support for my old school participating in the Smithsonian Folklife FoodWays. While I was walking around before it began, I first noticed the sign and table saying “Grow your Own Bean” as a demonstration from the Zero Hunger Hub. I came home with a decomposable pot and two bean seeds, and I was able to watch the bean grow. After potting my bean, I got talking with Linda and some of the teens apart from each Hub and was really interested in their message and goal. I loved meeting and learning from new people in different areas of the state and in other states.” –  Erika Harrington, Climate Hub Member

Overall, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival exceeded our expectations! From connecting with new people, educating others and planting seeds for the future – it was very successful!