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Regeneración holding youth rally in City Plaza

WATSONVILLE — Local students will have a chance to voice their hopes and fears about climate change in an open mic event that will follow global climate strikes happening around the world over the next seven days.

Regeneración-Pajaro Valley Climate Action will host an after school Youth Climate Rally today from 3:30-6 p.m. in the Watsonville City Plaza.

The strikers hope to bring awareness leading up to the United Nations’ Sept. 23 Climate Action Summit.

The Global Climate Strike official website says that “millions” of adults will walk out of workplaces and homes to join youth on the streets and demand the end of the “age of fossil fuels.”

“Our house is on fire — let’s act like it,” the website reads. “We demand climate justice for everyone.”

New York City earlier this week announced that its 1.1 million public school students could skip classes today without penalties to join the youth climate strikes. Several other large school districts around the country were also mulling over letting their students skip classes, and dozens of companies also announced they would close their doors in support of the strikes.

Regeneración founder and executive director Nancy Faulstich said she wanted to make sure there was a local space for the community to gather and talk about climate change — especially young people, who sometimes feel like their concerns and demands for action go unheard.

“Everybody who’s alive today is facing this existential crisis, but young people are facing possibly having their future cut off,” Faulstich said. “I heard students talking about what’s the point of going to school, what’s the point of getting a job if the world is not livable in the future…These are their concerns.”

Founded in 2016, Regeneración has worked to highlight the need for climate justice in Watsonville and the greater Pajaro Valley by spreading awareness about the small, everyday actions residents can take to fight climate change.

The organization also hopes to inspire young people to take charge of their future.

“That’s why we’re taking a hands-off approach with Friday’s rally,” Faulstich said. “We’re letting the students do what they want to and say what they feel… It’s coming together organically.”

Before the rally, local schools are also holding events throughout the day to educate students, teachers and administrators about climate change.

At Pajaro Valley High School, teacher Tammy Harkins helped students plan activities such as a “die-in,” a demonstration in which people lie down as if they were dead to symbolize the mortal danger posed by climate change. The school’s activities also include a workshop and presentation by advanced placement environmental science classes.

Harkins, who has been teaching and advocating for the environment for more than 30 years, said that the kids at Pajaro Valley and the greater Watsonville community have inspired her.

“The highlights of my career come from seeing kids getting involved,” she said.

One of those students is Pajaro Valley sophomore Itzel Sanchez, who last year started La Vida Verde, a school club that advocates for the environment and does regular beach cleanups. Currently, the club is raising funds to plant more trees throughout the school.

“I want a future,” Sanchez said. “I’m so scared that my children aren’t going to have the life I had.”

Sanchez said she felt like she had to get involved in her community after watching videos and reading articles about the effects climate change is having on the planet’s ecosystem. The superstorms, massive fires and melting glaciers served as her call to action.

“I said, ‘wow, I need to do something,’” she said. “I couldn’t just sit around on the couch.”

Sanchez said roughly 30 students from Pajaro Valley said they would make the trip to the City Plaza today, and she hopes students from other local schools will join.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s two, three, five or 20 other students,” Sanchez said. “As long as we keep adding one and one and one every time, it keeps building. Things are changing for the better.”

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