Going to school in Southern California, Jess Grady-Benson had witnessed first-hand the stark connection between racial and economic injustice and environmental degradation. That drove her to organize students to take collective action for climate justice. In 2012, she co-founded the Claremont Colleges Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign. As one of the lead organizers of the campaign, Grady-Benson helped guide it to victory at Pitzer College — in 2014 the college board agreed to divest from fossil fuels. Though she graduated last year, Grady-Benson has remained dedicated to building the youth climate justice movement through the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network — a national youth-led network which seeks to strengthen student campaigns for fossil fuel divestment and press for a just transition from the extractive economy.
As a member of the network’s coordinating committee, her work focuses on planning the strategic direction of the organization and training young divestment leaders to become organizers for the long haul. To this end, Grady-Benson has designed and led trainings for students and young alumni across the country. In the coming year, she will continue working to develop the network’s long-term strategy and leadership development programs as the Director of Training.