Credit: Brendan Toews

Ontario Nature Youth Council member Claire Saramaki shares her experiences as an attendee at the Youth Summit for Biodiversity and Environmental Leadership.

I first heard about the Ontario Nature Youth Summit when I was invited to apply for a sponsorship through an organization I was volunteering for. The summit is a great opportunity to relax and enjoy nature while learning wonderful new things about the environment, nature, and yourself!

I will be attending my third Youth Summit this year. Reflecting back on previous years I’ve attended, I remember learning about reptiles, going for canoe rides and hikes, playing games and having great conversations with my peers. These moments are unforgettable, but they aren’t the only things I left the summit with.

Early morning canoeing; Credit: Daynan Lepore

At the beginning and end of the summit there are always keynote speakers who talk about major environmental issues. Presenters in the past have spoken about advocacy and global warming. In past workshops, we have searched for salamanders, gone on hikes, and made medicine from plants. Keynote presentations and workshops have inspired me to take action for the environment.

Searching for salamanders and submitting our sightings using the Ontario Reptile and Amphibian Atlas app; Credit: Brendan Toews

There is also a group planning forum where you can choose an issue that you are interested in, such as protecting wetlands or starting a school/community club and brainstorm ways to take action.

Action planning forum on food sustainability; Credit: Noah Cole

After the Summit, I was very eager to join the Ontario Nature Youth Council; a tight-knit group I had admired throughout the weekend. Through the youth summit and youth council, I have met numerous amazing, like-minded people. I know that together we can accomplish great things ­–­ from our pollinator campaign to our new climate change campaign.

My experience at the summit continues to inspire me through university as I try to decide between a career in health or the environment – hopefully linking the two! I highly recommend the Ontario Nature Youth Summit to anyone with even the slightest interest in nature, the environment, leadership and activism, or just a willingness to try something new.


Claire Saramaki is a member of Ontario Nature’s Youth Council.