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New MI Healthy Climate Corps front and center at state’s MI Healthy Climate Conference

An old adage says the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, and the next-best time is now. May 15 was a great choice, too. On that day – the eve of the second-annual MI Healthy Climate Conference – members of Michigan’s new MI Healthy Climate Corps (MHC Corps) planted 10 trees in downtown Lansing.

MI Healthy Climate Corps members gather for a group photo with Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, who addressed the MI Healthy Climate Conference on Thursday, May 16.

MI Healthy Climate Corps members gather for a group photo with Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, who addressed the MI Healthy Climate Conference on May 16.

 

It was one of many ways corps members invested in the future as they engaged with and learned from the sold-out conference. An MHC Corps member even introduced Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s May 17 keynote speech.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) hosted the event at the Lansing Center May 16-17 for more than 900 attendees. The theme of “Accelerating Action” focused on motivating Michiganders to advance goals in the Governor’s MI Healthy Climate Plan (MHCP) and recently enacted historic clean energy legislation, and to bring home federal climate and clean energy-related funding.  

“At last year’s conference, the MI Healthy Climate Corps was still in the future,” said EGLE Climate Action Officer Jordan Power with the Office of Climate and Energy (OCE). “This year, the program and the members of our first cohort were integral to the conference’s theme of accelerating climate action. It was exciting to showcase the impact they have already had across the state, only two months into their service.”

The OCE hosted a May 15 pre-conference leadership retreat where MHC Corps members met to further develop their leadership skills, report on their service projects, and network with climate leaders and representatives from state and national climate corps and AmeriCorps programs.

MI Healthy Climate Corps members plant a tree in Lansing.

MI Healthy Climate Corps members plant a tree in Lansing.

 

The tree-planting followed, with corps members joined by EGLE director Phil Roos, Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC) Executive Director Ginna Holmes, and local partners. 

Members of the MI Healthy Climate Corps mingle with conference attendees at exhibitor tables.

Members of the MI Healthy Climate Corps mingle with conference attendees at exhibitor tables.

 

The conference began in earnest May 16 with the MHC Corps members introducing themselves to attendees and showcasing their service projects.

MHC Corps member Kala Sperbeck of Grand Rapids then joined Holmes, Alexus Foote of YouthWork, Sydney Deal of Ann Arbor Climate Corps, and Maggie Thomas of the White House’s climate office on a panel to discuss how climate corps programs in Michigan support communities and build leaders.

“It was enlightening to learn about all the work being done across Michigan and to see how the corps is helping to complete that work and achieve the MI Healthy Climate Plan goals,” Sperbeck said.

MI Healthy Climate Corps, Ali Sandifer, Lansing Lugnuts, Big Lug

MI Healthy Climate Corps member Ali Sandifer meets Lansing Lugnuts mascot Big Lug before the May 16 “Climate Night” ballgame, where Sandifer threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

 

That evening, corps member Ali Sandifer, a climate initiative program coordinator in EGLE’s OCE, raised the MHC Corps’ profile by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Lansing Lugnuts baseball game to commemorate “Climate Night” at Jackson Field.

“This year’s MI Healthy Climate Conference was incredibly eventful, engaging, and important for Michigan,” Sandifer said. “I attended panels that will help me in my work and service. I gained connections with executives and climate justice leaders, widening my network and learning immensely from those conversations. If those two things weren’t valuable enough, I also threw the first pitch. All of these collective experiences, along with getting to connect with every single person in my cohort, made the MI Healthy Climate Conference an unforgettable event.”

MI Healthy Climate Corps member Kim Heumann meets Governor Gretchen Whitmer backstage at the MI Healthy Climate Conference on Friday, May 17. Heumann welcomed the Governor to the stage to deliver the conference’s keynote speech.

MI Healthy Climate Corps member Kim Heumann meets Governor Gretchen Whitmer backstage at the MI Healthy Climate Conference on May 17. Heumann welcomed the Governor to the stage to deliver the conference’s keynote speech. 

 

Kimberly Heumann of Ann Arbor introduced the Governor’s keynote address, telling the audience, “I would not be here today without Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s commitment to the people of Michigan to build a better future that positions our state as a leader in climate action.”

Heumann is working with the City of River Rouge to create a handbook of green workforce opportunities, including training programs, schools, certifications, apprenticeships, mentorships, and conferences.

“After spending two months researching state initiatives on Michigan’s actions to mitigate the impacts of climate change, it was an honor to meet the woman that has led the charge on this,” Heumann said. “What I said in my introduction of her is true: Governor Whitmer is a true champion for climate action and the people of Michigan, and that is part of why I am proud to be a Michigander. I will probably brag about meeting her for a while!”

More about the MI Healthy Climate Corps

The MHC Corps workforce program focuses on advancing and reaching MI Healthy Climate Plan goals, building capacity in communities across the state, and guiding federal and state resources. The corps aims to develop an enduring, capable network of climate professionals committed to their communities and a sustainable future for Michigan. On Earth Day, the corps was announced as an official American Climate Corps (ACC) affiliate.

Thirty corps members have been at work for more than two months at 29 nonprofits, local governments, and state agencies. Their term of service ends in November. A second cohort will begin an 11-month service term in fall 2024. In future years, the corps expects to offer additional community support and service opportunities throughout the state.

The MHC Corps is one of eight AmeriCorps programs that comprise the Michigan Climate Corps (MCC), alongside AmeriCorps Climate Ready at Wayne State University, the Ann Arbor Climate Corps, the Huron Pines AmeriCorps Program, the YouthWork Climate and Conservation Corps, and the yet-to-launch Rural Resiliency Corps with Central Michigan University and SEEDs Ecology and Education Centers and Michigan Sustainable Business Forum AmeriCorps program.  

This summer, more than 200 AmeriCorps members will be engaged in direct climate action and environmental conservation through MCC programs. More information is available from Amanda Scott, AmeriCorps program officer for the MCC, at ScottA35@Michigan.gov.  

Prospective host partners, corps members, and others interested in supporting the MHC Corps can find more information and sign up to receive updates on the Corps’ webpage.

About the American Climate Corps

The ACC is a partnership among the federal departments of Commerce, Interior, Agriculture, Labor, and Energy; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and AmeriCorps. President Joe Biden created the corps to fight the climate crisis today and prepare young Americans for the clean energy and climate resilience jobs of tomorrow. The ACC serves as an umbrella organization for state climate corps programs, including Michigan’s. 

MHC Corps host partners and locations

MHC Corps members currently serve with the following host partners through mid-November:

  • Ann Arbor: Washtenaw County Facilities Management Department 
  • Bellaire: Antrim Conservation District. 
  • Detroit: Detroit city government, Detroit 2030 District, Detroit Future City, Let’s Grow Michigan, Michigan Saves, Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan, and Transportation Riders United. 
  • East Lansing: East Lansing city government. 
  • Elk Rapids: Elk Rapids village government. 
  • Flint: The Everly Collective. 
  • Grand Rapids: West Michigan Environmental Action Council and Calvin University Plaster Creek Stewards. 
  • Ingham County: Spartan Housing Cooperative. 
  • Kalamazoo: Kalamazoo city government. 
  • Lansing: Lansing city government, Clean Fuels Michigan, Lansing Board of Water & Light, League of Michigan Bicyclists, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, EGLE’s Office of Climate and Energy, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources Office of Public Lands. 
  • Marquette: Marquette County government and Superior Watershed Partnership. 
  • River Rouge: City of River Rouge Community Development Department. 
  • Traverse City: SEEDS Ecology and Education Centers and East Bay Charter Township government. 
  • Waterford Township: Oakland County government.

About the MI Healthy Climate Plan

The MI Healthy Climate Plan positions Michigan as a climate action leader and focuses on actions to spur economic development and create good-paying jobs, lower energy and transportation costs for working families and businesses, work toward energy independence, mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, improve public health, and protect natural resources and wildlife. Its overall goal is a prosperous, sustainable, equitable, carbon-neutral Michigan by 2050.

Anna Harden

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