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  • Writer's pictureGWMP

Community, Diversity, and Solar Ovens: Cheyenne Young

Fall Constellations Intern Cheyenne Young is putting her talents to work for ICENECDEV, delving into community-based projects to fight global warming.

Cheyenne Young grew up in southern Maryland, where she participated on a science competition team called Envirothon. This piqued her interest in environmental science and drove her to take classes geared toward the subject. Through her studies, Cheyenne learned that while her interests lied in fisheries and aquatics, what really drew her to the space was the lack of diversity.

“I noticed growing up that there wasn’t anyone that looked like me in the environmental field, so that sparked my interest more, and then I started interning at the National Science Foundation.”

At the National Science Foundation, Cheyenne found an incredible mentor, Dr. Lina C. Patino, who guided her through building her background in the environmental space. Their work together directed Cheyenne’s interests toward community development and environment justice. Cheyenne went on to major in Environmental Studies with minors in History and Biology at Salisbury University. She explains the intersection of the two by saying: “History ties into everything we are doing, so I think it’s really important to learn from the past and then improve. You can see what worked in the past and then bring that into a future project.”

Cheyenne brings her skills and experience to the Constellations program in Fall 2020 to work with ICENECDEV, the International Centre for Environmental Education and Community Development, where she is working on grant proposals for a solar bakery project in Cameroon. Through the project she has learned all about solar ovens and the process of planning and implementing a community-based project. “I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a solar oven, so the first thing I learned was how that works. I’m also learning about everything that goes into planning and implementing a community-based project. First you have to create a project proposal and then a project concept, a smaller, quick summary that also encompasses all the details that a funder would have to know, and how to reach out to different stakeholders.”

Cheyenne sitting with middle school students on her trip to Oaxaca, Summer 2020

Cheyenne is inspired by the work of solar ovens and her new knowledge of their existence in other places, namely South America. She noted that hundreds of local people will become employed as a result of the solar ovens she’s working to implement.

This internship experience is only deepening her skills and interest in community development. Cheyenne spent this past summer in Oaxaca, where it became clear that her passion for people will be a determining factor in her future. After she earns her master’s degree in Environmental Policy at Bard College, Cheyenne wants to take the skills she’s learning from her internship now, coupled with her knowledge of working in government agencies, and create a career in international community engagement and development.

“Instead of just being in some congressional meeting not really knowing what’s happening in the field, I think [my time in Oaxaca] was really special and I think that helps make a difference.”

P.S.: To stay sane in these crazy times of virtual work, Cheyenne recommends going for a hike or a walk, keeping a close group of friends and/or cohort, taking time for yourself, and only working normally scheduled hours. To stay motivated in the environmental field she says it’s nice to look at “small wins.”

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