Talking Green: Local students take on local climate issues with YVSC

Nicole Pepper
For the Steamboat Pilot & Today
The Yampa Valley Sustainability Council enjoyed working with three interns — Thomas Cooper, Lillian Svoboda and Luke Wasem — throughout the fall term.
YVSC/Courtesy photo

The Yampa Valley Sustainability Council just completed the second term of its newly introduced Internship program.

This competitive, paid internship program was created to provide hands-on training and professional development opportunities for local students and young professionals in the sustainability field.

They do this by bringing their interns in contact with YVSC staff and engaging them in their programs that directly address sustainability issues in the Yampa Valley.

This fall, Thomas Cooper, Lillian Svoboda and Luke Wasem joined the YVSC team. The interns brought passion and curiosity to the organization while applying their skills and growing as individuals throughout the term.

Thomas, a junior at Steamboat Springs High School, took the lead of YVSC’s emergent Rising Leaders in Sustainability program to engage young people in local climate issues.

Under the mentorship of Kate Brocato, YVSC’s communications and program manager, he grew participation in this initiative by continuing the circulation of their “Next Generation” newsletter and hosting a documentary screening and panel discussion of “Purple Mountains,” a film by Protect Our Winters that identifies outdoor recreation as a valuable way to find common ground in discussions of climate change.

Lillian is a student at Colorado Mountain College. Lillian worked under the mentorship of Winn Cowman, YVSC’s waste diversion director, to set the foundation for implementing composting at local restaurants.

Through this project, she researched and held discussions with local businesses to discuss the biggest barriers to implement composting in their restaurants and identify solutions to move forward.

“I feel that I gained a lot of important insights and experiences during my time with YVSC,” Svoboda said. “I enjoyed working with YVSC, and I am thankful for all of the opportunities they have given me.”

Lillian’s project is a significant milestone on the path to a more sustainable waste diversion system in our community.

Luke, also a student at CMC, partnered up with Tim Sullivan, YVSC’s Natural Climate Solutions director, to research and identify opportunities for applied NCS to support post-wildfire regeneration.

The frequency of high-intensity, long-duration wildfires and disturbances is increasing in our warming and drying intermountain west. Luke’s research directly supports YVSC in prioritizing opportunities and identifying the role that YVSC can play to support partners in supporting the resiliency of local landscapes.

Are you a student or young professional seeking professional experience and training in the field of sustainability in the Yampa Valley? Then apply for YVSC’s Internship Program.

We have three 12-week terms throughout the year: during spring, summer and fall. We encourage individuals of all backgrounds to apply for this position. No previous experience is required.

As an intern, you will work an average of 10-15 hours per week with a paid stipend. The application window for the spring term is open until Jan. 28. The spring term runs from Feb. 7-May 6. You can find more details at

Nicole Pepper is Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s geospatial analyst and internship program manager.

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