Veronika Bylicki is the co-founder of Plan-It Earth, a conference that allows youth to co-design city projects. She's also a student leader of Common Energy UBC, the largest student-run sustainability group on campus, and a speaker at TEDxKids@BC.
These are just a few of the many accomplishments she has achieved during her student life. Veronika is pursuing a Global Resources Systems degree focusing on urban sustainability and community development.
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On Saturday, April 18, she will bring her energy and passion for the environment to Richmond's Hugh Boyd Secondary School as one of the three keynote speakers for the school district's annual half day, youth-led REaDY Summit.
"In high school, you're becoming exposed to these issues so to have the motivation and understanding that you can take on certain projects and contribute to the whole field of sustainability in some way — it's just so-so great and it's definitely just the first step," she said.
Veronika fell in love with nature when she was just a little kid, during camping trips and other outdoor activities with her parents.
She decided to take on an active role of protecting the environment when she joined the TREK Outdoor Education Program. Half her time in the program was dedicated to school work, while the other was dedicated to field trips and other adventures to learn more about the environment.
"[The program] really opened my eyes to different issues and things that I've never learned about before. So that was the main trigger that got me into the work that I do, and ever since, I've been quite involved in the field," she said.
During her time in the program, she was introduced to the concept of urban sustainability. "It wasn't geared towards youth at all, but a few of my classmates went and it was just so boring the way that it was presented," she said. "I could grasp that the issues were so important. It sort of triggered the thought that it would be really important to present all of that information in a really innovative and dynamic and exciting way for youth."
With that in mind, Veronika and a few friends and a teacher created Plan-It Earth, a campaign that gets youth to co-develop sustainable city projects. In her senior year, she was invited to give a speech about urban sustainability at TEDxKids@BC. Veronika will be joined by her friend and fellow environmentalist Tesicca Truong at the REaDY Summit this year.
Like Veronika, Tesicca got her love for nature from her parents, who took her on long road trips across Canada. Tesicca has been to all the provinces and territories except for Nunavut and Newfoundland and Labrador. B.C. is still her favourite province because of its biodiversity.
"[B.C.] has 14 different biogeoclimatic zones, which mean each has its own distinct ecosystem with different organisms, and so that offers such an opportunity to explore," she said.
In Grade 10, she enrolled in the TREK program, where she explored the wonders of B.C. and its forests. This is also where she was taught about the environmental issues and where she met Veronika.
The two formed a team and founded Plan-It Earth, and joined the Metro Vancouver Youth 4 Action to teach students about the environment and sustainability.
One of her biggest accomplishments during high school was founding the Churchill Youth 4 Tap, a campaign that encourages youth to stop buying bottled water. The campaign had an immediate impact as many students stopped using plastic bottles.
"To convince one person to stop using bottled water, that would've been a lifetime of bottles that would be saved by that one person, so that really strikes home with me," she said.
Tesicca is a sophomore at Simon Fraser University, pursuing an environmental science degree and is the environment representative for the Simon Fraser Student Society. In 2014, she was the director of Sustainable SFU, a group that promotes sustainability on campus.
Joining the two best friends will be Grade 11 student Alice Xu, who will share her experience of going from being a climate skeptic to climate advocate.
This is the fourth year the David Suzuki Foundation has partnered with the City of Richmond and the Richmond School District to co-present the REaDY Summit. Past keynote speakers include David Suzuki, Sarika Cullis-Suzuki and David Suzuki Foundation CEO Peter Robinson.
Summit participants will be able to sign up for a variety of informative and interactive workshops hosted by partners and key environmental organizations.
Lindsay Coulter, David Suzuki's Queen of Green who has been a fixture at all four summits, will host DIY workshops.
The Foundation's Blue Dot Movement national organizing manager Sophika Kostyniuk will host the Vibrant Community Visioning Mural workshop. Another Foundation fixture at the REaDY Summit is our sustainable seafood workshop. This year's host is Western Region public engagement specialist Kyle Empringham. To top it all off, Dowutuluv and SOULdiers Dance will debut their Blue Dot dance performance at REaDY 2015!
The theme for this year's REaDY Summit is Planning for the Future. Get set. Go!
To register, go to www.readysummit.ca/.