Empowering Tomorrow's Leaders to Find Their Voice

Take one look at the news today and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the complex issues facing our society. Often, we choose to tackle these problems individually in order to find solutions, but - as noted by revered naturalist John Muir and shown throughout the field of ecology - “when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” 

It’s these interconnections, particularly the hidden (and not so hidden) links between social justice and environmental issues, that we explore in ACES’ Tomorrow’s Voices class. Now in its 18th year, Tomorrow’s Voices is a college-level course offered to local high school students.

Arin Trook, ACES Education Director, began teaching alongside Tomorrow’s Voices founders AO Forbes and Willard Clapper in 2013. In Arin’s words, “When launched in 2000, Tomorrow's Voices was incredibly foresighted in bridging the divide between social justice and environmental issues. Almost 20 years later, the modern environmental movement is only now realizing this connection, which lies at the heart of solutions to our complex problems.”

Taught throughout the school year, the Tomorrow's Voices class aims to develop ethical student leaders through investigating topics such as race relations, political conflict in the Middle East, environmental activism, animal rights, and others. 

With a broader focus on social justice and environmental stewardship, Tomorrow’s Voices comes at a critical time in our nation’s history. Tomorrow's Voices' action-oriented, issues-based discussions provide students with tools to understand their place in the world and become active members of their community. Students are asked to apply what they learn in class to their daily actions, with recent homewok assignments including: recording and analyzing their daily environmental "footprint," writing letters to their congressional representatives on key political issues, and interviewing their parents and guardians on race relations.

ACES Naturalist Field School Manager, Phebe Meyers, joined the Tomorrow’s Voices education team this year, and has felt inspired watching Tomorrow's Voices students tackle tough issues: “It is so powerful to listen to this group of high school students, who dedicate two and a half hours every Monday night to discuss the complex problems facing our valley, country, and world today. Watching how each conversation can shift students’ perspectives is both inspiring and motivating. It’s also exciting to see how these conversations continue outside of the classroom and grow into actual change within our communities.”

Thanks to generous support from donors, ACES launched an enhanced scholarship program in 2016 to encourage a wider range of student representation in the Tomorrow’s Voices class. By eliminating financial barriers to class participation, our student roster now better reflects the diverse demographics of the Roaring Fork Valley.

In addition to its unique learning opportunities, Tomorrow’s Voices is the only class in the Roaring Fork School District that brings students from different high schools together into the same classroom. This opportunity for “cross-pollination” and networking amongst diverse student populations is a critical element in building alliances, and affecting social and political change in our home watershed.

TONIGHT: ACES welcomes the community to the Wheeler Opera House for the 4th annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival. All proceeds from this inspiring evening, featuring 13 environmental and adventure films, will go directly to ACES Tomorrow’s Voices program. Join us in celebrating our incredible students, and help support the Tomorrow’s Voices program into the future. Click here for your tickets!