The Starfish Canada is amplifying the voices of youth

Amplifying the voices of youth

The Starfish Canada Blog Series with Elyse Economides

Amplifying the voices of youth

The Starfish Canada Blog Series with Elyse Economides

By Emily Jerome, Digital Engagement Assistant

As Editorial Team Lead with The Starfish Canada, Elyse Economides is a guiding light for over 60 youth environmental writers.

From gaining altitude on Vancouver’s North Shore hiking trails to mentoring young environmental leaders, Elyse Economides combines her connection to nature with her passion for editing, publishing and education. In her volunteer position as Editorial Team Lead with The Starfish Canada, Elyse is a guiding light for over 60 young environmental writers on their online journal. From tips on how youth writers can harness the power of the written word, how older generations can empower younger generations and how she strikes a balance in the midst of it all, we dive into Elyse’s important work with The Starfish Canada.

A path leading to The Starfish Canada

Photo of Elyse Economides

“For me, because the ocean has such a place in my heart, I really wanted to find a way to make sure I was doing my part to help preserve things,” says Elyse. Having grown up five minutes away from the beach in southern California, being a certified scuba diver and finding a home on the Canadian coastline, it’s no surprise that Elyse’s connection to nature is through the salty waters of the Pacific Ocean. After travelling along the coastlines of Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Elyse returned to Canada with a deeper appreciation for the diverse ecosystems and a drive to protect the environment, especially the ocean.

While searching for a volunteer position, Elyse found The Starfish Canada, a non-profit focused on amplifying the voices of youth environmental leaders and creating a sense of community to empower younger generations. “The leadership at Starfish does a really good job with highlighting positive things while not ignoring that we are dealing with some very heavy issues,” says Elyse. Not only is this balance important, but “feeling a part of that community hopefully makes people feel like they are making an impact.”

Mentoring youth change-makers

Elyse has been struck by the passion expressed by youth leaders and their depth of knowledge. “I don’t know if I could say at their age that I was as well informed about what’s happening so I think that’s really impressive” reflects Elyse. But, passion and knowledge aren’t all it takes to draw readers into an environmental issue; this is where Elyse’s mentorship comes in.

To reach a wide audience, The Starfish Canada writers have to strike a balance between what they’re passionate about and what will engage readers. “Thinking about your audience is the best place to start” Elyse suggests, “how can you write content in a way that will make your audience care about it or come away from it saying ‘I want to learn more about that.” Youth writers must find an angle that will transcend computer and phone screens and connect with people’s beliefs, values and desires.

Some environmental issues are so complex and multifaceted, that it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. For this, Elyse suggests tackling the topic from a local standpoint. Through this lens, youth environmental writers can give the issue a more tangible feel, link to local resources and then make a call to action.

How can older generations empower up-and-coming environmentalists?

“In whatever way they can, amplify the voices of youth leaders,” says Elyse. Whether that’s re-sharing content through social media channels or providing opportunities for youth to be a part of decision-making processes, older generations can create a “platform for youth to bring forward what they’re passionate about or what they’re fighting for” and truly be heard.

What’s more, Elyse suggests that older generations can provide mentorship including reaching out to youth-focused organizations like The Starfish Canada and provide guidance to youth leaders. As she put it, “if youth leaders do feel like they’re struggling to have their voices heard or they feel like they’re not having an impact, that’s really where the life experiences of someone who’s lived a bit longer can provide some levity.” Older generations can inspire resiliency and provide words of encouragement “like ’don’t be discouraged, there are still lots of opportunities and it takes time for things to get done… keep on’” says Elyse.

The power of reconnecting with nature

So how does Elyse find a balance between her dedication to The Starfish Canada and nurturing her own well-being? “Whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed or anxious about something, being able to go outside and reconnect to nature, even though that sounds very cheesy, it’s true,” Elyse says with a laugh. Running along the seawall in Vancouver or unplugging and going for a pedal outdoors serves as “a good reminder for what we are fighting for.”

Vancouver seawall at sunset
Vancouver seawall. Photo by AngusChanPhoto from Getty Images/Canva.

More to come from The Starfish Canada

With exciting new initiatives on the horizon, Elyse and The Starfish Canada hope to expand their reach across Canada. This includes providing new opportunities for writers to dive into opinion pieces and publishing French-language content, an initiative spearheaded by the Chair of the Board, Guillaume Courcy.  The Starfish Canada has also partnered with Riipen, an online learning platform. This partnership will provide funding to a select number of The Starfish Canada writers as they focus on conducting comprehensive research and producing in-depth content. To keep up with The Starfish Canada and their upcoming projects, check out their website, read their online journal and follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.