Never Let Them Go is a Beacon Middle School Odyssey of the Mind team with the aim of halting the intentional release of balloons in Delaware.
In 2019, the team received an official resolution from Sussex County Council in support of its efforts. Currently, the team supports Delaware Senate Bill 208, which imposes a civil penalty for the violation of intentionally releasing five or more balloons and establishes that releasing one to four balloons at a time is littering.
“Preventing releases prevents litter which blights our communities and environment, and causes harm to wildlife and marine animals,” said Alisha Fletcher, Beacon Middle School Odyssey of the Mind coach.
Based on its local efforts to date, Never Let Them Go was invited to participate in the Delaware Youth Environment Summit, an inaugural student-led, full-day summit held Feb. 28 at Delaware Technical Community College in Dover. More than 250 students and their team advisors attended from over 22 public and independent high schools. Planned by student leaders statewide, the summit’s goal was to inspire youth-led action and environmental leadership.
“YES! was created by a coalition of nonprofit environmental leaders, educators at area schools, and agencies to provide the opportunity for teens to meet, learn, and share their ideas on environmental issues of concern. Our goal is to inform, inspire, activate, and empower students for environmental change,” said lead student organizer Eleri Phillips from St. Andrew’s School.
The summit featured keynote speakers, a dozen workshops, more than 27 nonprofit and agency exhibitors, and student-led lightning talks. Action plans were developed at the end of the day for students to integrate the day’s learning into a plan for increased sustainability at Beacon Middle School to save energy, reduce waste and improve health.
“When I took the oath of office to become governor, I pledged to ‘respect the right of future generations to share the rich historic and natural heritage’ of our state. That’s what this summit is all about,” said Gov. John Carney. “Delaware is a beautiful state, and we need to keep working hard to protect our natural environment. We’re making significant progress toward investing in clean water and open space preservation across our state. I’m so pleased to see so many Delaware students leading on this issue – and helping protect our natural environment for themselves and for future generations of Delawareans.”
Guests and speakers included Carney; Nadia Nazar, youth activist and co-founder, Zero Hour; Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin; Colin O’Mara, National Wildlife Foundation president and CEO, and former DNREC secretary; and U.S. Sen. Tom Carper.
“Young people are sometimes referred to as the environmental stewards of tomorrow, but the reality is that they are the environmental leaders of today,” said Garvin. “Giving them the information and tools that will allow them to advocate and act is a worthy goal, and this summit is designed to do that.”