Toronto Youth Leader Helen Chen Presents Report Card

When Helen Chen was in middle school, she became motivated to find the solutions to climate change. She moved to Canada when she was young because her mom’s best friend’s son passed away from a rare form of lung cancer because of the smog conditions in China. This stuck with her and illustrated the power climate change could have on impacting humanity. She began working towards solutions. At age 15, she went to the Climate Reality training in Houston, Texas and met Maddie Adkins, an iMatter leader.

Helen joined the iMatter team and works with Lily Barraclough, who is a facilitator in Canada. She began exploring options for her city of Toronto, Ontario. She is now 16 and a junior at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute. In the creation of the report card, which measures how well a community is doing at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Helen met with the staff in the York Region that work on climate action in the spring of this past year. Over the summer, Helen and the team continuously emailed the staff and local government to stay connected to eventually present the report card.

In September, the York Region finally responded saying they could present the report card so Helen began the task of finding organizations to endorse it. She sent emails to a list of about 20 organizations in the region in which she shared her story, iMatter’s story, and why the iMatter campaign could bring tangible change to the community. Helen’s hard work and the hard work of the team led to endorsements from Climate Reality, Roots and Shoots, Sierra Club, and many others!

In early November, she presented the report card to York Region with another youth leader named Katherine Gotovsky, a grade 12 student at the University of Toronto schools. The city staff of Toronto discussed intentions to work with Helen as a part of their Climate Action Plan. They will be connecting with people who work in the sector soon!

To other youth leaders that are trying to deal with resistant or slow-moving local government, Helen offers this advice:

  • Always have a lot of courage even if people do not respond to your emails.
  • Because we’re young and the government thinks we’re too young to understand the climate crisis fully, just keep bothering them. They’re YOUR government and they’re supposed to support YOU.
  • You are a citizen and they are responsible to you. Your representatives must represent your interests.

iMatter youth leaders are motivated to create a better future for their communities and their loved ones. Join us and make transformative change in your community or encourage a youth leader in your community take climate action.

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