By the Teens of the Co-Lab ~

In the summer of 2022, many Global Co Lab teens attended the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC to share their amazing work. We participated in lots of activities at this event and we had so much fun! It was amazing to meet each other in person all while sharing our passions with the public.

We got to speak on panels, host workshops, create fun activities at the tables, make professional connections, and recruit for the hubs. This was the perfect way to educate people on important issues in the world. We have asked some of the participants to send in a paragraph about their experience at the festival. Let’s see what they have to say!

Danielle Reed – Wildlife Conservation Hub Teen Ambassador, Plastics Hub Member, Climate Hub Member

The 2022 Smithsonian Folklife Festival was one of the greatest experiences of my life! I got to talk to hundreds of people for 5 days straight about the things I’m most passionate about including wildlife conservation, ecosystem management, plastic pollution, and climate change. I did all of that while being with some of my favorite people in the entire world! It was such an awesome experience to talk to people who were genuinely interested in what I had to say and it was so cool to educate so many people on all of the topics the GCLN covers. I always say that education is the first step to making a change, and I hope that we inspired some people to make a change by educating them! It isn’t often that people want to hear from teens about important issues, so this was a nice change of pace. I will forever be grateful for this incredible opportunity!

Sarah Bigley – Wildlife Conservation Teen Ambassador, Plastic Hub Teen Ambassador

Overall, I had such an amazing time at the Folklife festival! It was such a cool opportunity to meet incredible teens from around the world and make new friendships with people who are interested in similar things as myself. I learned so much about different environmental and cultural issues throughout my time there as well. I was definitely inspired by the amazing presenters to keep working towards a greener future, and I gained confidence in public speaking and talking to people to help me achieve these goals.

Carolina Jones – Climate Hub Teen Ambassador

I had so much fun at the folklife festival! Getting to meet people I’ve only interacted with virtually – it was an amazing experience, and meeting other people who cared about climate change made me feel hopeful for the future of the planet. Speaking on a panel was such a great opportunity that I’m very grateful to have had, and I can’t wait to participate in more in-person Co-Lab events in the future!

Lana Bess – Plastics Hub Teen Ambassador

I had lots of fun speaking on panels and making new friends. Not many people my age can say that they are in the Smithsonian Archives and have spoken on several public panels. I also had a lot of time to walk around and absorb the different cultures, which was amazing and refreshing. It was truly an amazing opportunity. I wish that I could have stayed longer and I hope that we can do it again!

Aakash Palathra – Mental Health Hub Teen Ambassador

I was able to have the amazing opportunity of being with the Co-Lab during the Folklife Festival for 2 days, 2 days I’ll likely never forget for the rest of my life. I will try to keep this short because, to be honest, this could probably take a day to write, so be aware (lol). The first part of the Folklife Festival I’d like to talk about was the amazing work I got to do. From setting up our stations to working with amazing little kids at our bean tent I felt like I was contributing to something much bigger and better than myself and I enjoyed doing this with the other amazing people at the festival. During the lobbying at Capitol Hill, I felt like I had the power to make a difference and we got to learn so much about how we could improve the US through further efforts, receiving praise and admiration along the way. But the second and most important part of the festival was definitely meeting the squad. It’s hard to feel connected with a group that is virtual even if it’s a group as tight-knit as the Co-Lab. But the bonding at the Folklife Festival with people I’ve never met in person felt like I was meeting long-lost friends because indeed we were longtime friends. Friends are unified by global conflict, and the urge to resolve them. To conclude, the Folklife Festival was an extremely profound and marvelous event that showed me how much power I and my peers, not just of the co-lab but of the other folklife groups, have to change the world for the better. Shoutouts to Folklife Squad: Leah, Sarah, Danielle, Sean, Olivia, Sejal, Lana, Emma, Linda, Julie, and all the other amazing people that attended in person!

Sean Lee – Climate Hub Teen Ambassador

Overall, the Folklife festival was very fun and amazing. When I first arrived there, I did not know half of the people there. Once I finished the festival, I grew close with most of them, and I would definitely reconnect with them at another Folklife Festival. This was the first experience where I also learned how to do pitches and instruct people at the activities hosted by the Glocal Co-Lab. It was very interesting just because I never have done anything like this before, and I learned a lot more about how bean plants grow. I even had one myself. It developed into a beautiful bean plant and I donated it to a local community garden. I would love to go to another Folklife Festival and meet new people there, and reconnect with the people I saw this year!

If you would like to hear more about our experience check out the Wildlife Hub’s newest podcast episode. It is all about their experience at the festival and in Washington, DC. They talk about everything from the Smithsonian National Zoo to speaking on panels. There are 8 mini episodes for this September version of the Conservation Conversations podcast. Check it out here: