A strong believer in the impact youth can have on policy issues, Dyanna Jaye was troubled by the absence of youth voices like hers when climate change policies were discussed in her home state of Virginia. So, leveraging connections she had made with students from other Virginia college campuses at the 2013 Power Shift convergence in Pittsburgh, PA, Jaye co-founded the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition. VSEC’s mission is to serve as a platform that cultivates and elevates student voices so that they can be heard in state level decision-making spaces.
Virginia’s specific challenges, like coastline erosion and mountaintop removal mining, was a priority for VSEC. The coalition’s first actions included crafting a critique to the Governor’s Energy Plan, which demanded bolder climate action from the state. After she being elected as the coalition’s first chair, Jaye drafted a constitution, established key partners, and developed focus areas that would effectively support VSEC’s mission. In early 2015, VSEC hosted its first Student Power Lobby Day, bringing together students for meetings with state legislators to press for the proposed Virginia Coastal Protection Act. VSEC is a growing coalition. With a presence on 11 Virginia college campuses to date, it is marching steadily toward its goal to make sure Virginia’s students are heard.