loader image




Co-presented by the Ashokan Center and Woodstock Day School

The Youth Empowerment & Sustainability Summit (YESS!) is a global climate solution and leadership summit for young people who are ready to change their lives and their communities by working towards climate resilience. The three-day event is designed to empower students from middle school through college by teaching them to develop solutions-based thinking and civic engagement skills. YESS! will be held in the heart of the Hudson Valley at the beautiful and historic Ashokan Center, where environmental education has been a priority since 1967.

Each team is made up of 4-6 people (students and teachers.)

One adult participant must act as team leader and register for themselves and their team.

Participants will gain:

  • Three days of immersive solution-based thinking developed by a youth planning committee
  • Peer-to-peer learning sessions
  • Sessions with cutting-edge regional scientists and climate experts
  • Hands-on workshops with individuals skilled in leadership development, empowerment and civic engagement skills
  • Cultural experiences and opportunities to explore Ashokan’s beautiful natural surroundings
  • Guidance to develop a YESS! Action Plan for each school team to take back for implementation in their schools and communities


Keynote Speaker

Columbia University Climatologist and former NASA astronomer Dr. James Hansen will lead a Catskill Conversation, alerting students and community members to the present day climate emergency on Thursday, February 6th at 7:00 p.m. at Kingston High School, Kingston N.Y.,

Dr. Hansen will be the keynote speaker at The Ashokan Center,   inaugurating the Ashokan Youth Empowerment and Sustainability Summit (YESS!).


Jeffrey D. Sachs is a world-renowned professor of economics, leader in sustainable development, senior UN advisor, bestselling author, and syndicated columnist whose monthly newspaper columns appear in more than 100 countries. He is the co-recipient of the 2015 Blue Planet Prize, the leading global prize for environmental leadership, and has twice been named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential world leaders.


He will join students and teachers via Skype during our  February YESS! Event at The Ashokan Center focusing on the climate crisis and the growing youth movement.


Author, Producer and Director of Young Voices for the Planet

Lynne Cherry is the author and illustrator of over 30 award-winning children’s books including the rainforest classic, The Great Kapok Tree, the environmental history, A River Ran Wild and the first climate change children’s book How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming co-authored with the late photojournalist Gary Braasch in 2008.

Lynne is also the producer and director of the Young Voices for the Planet films that champion youth solutions to the climate crisis, success stories are told by the youth themselves.

Lynne has been outspoken about the importance of educating about climate change by beginning with solutions and success stories in order to prevent youth and adults alike from falling into a state of “motivated avoidance” which she wrote about in her NY Times guest blog for dot.Earth in 2012 “On the Allure of Ostriches and New Paths in Climate Communication.”


Youth Leader

Birch Kinsey is a Buffalo-based just transition advocate. Since she was 14 she has been working within the lenses of food and ecology to bring awareness to the ways the climate crisis affects us all. She helps people connect with issues at a personal level, and find avenues to make meaningful impact.

Birch has spoken at conferences such as the Omega Center for Sustainable Living’s Drawdown Learn Conference and completed a summer internship at the Adirondack WILD Center. She has also facilitates workshops for her peers, educators, and other professionals.


Climate Change Activist

Jaysa Meller, 13, has been making her voice heard since she was 10 years old. That’s when she began appealing to the powers that be in Bridgeport, Connecticut to shut down various plants polluting the town’s air. But not everywhere in Bridgeport. What Meller noticed, even at her young age, was the plants were only impacting the city’s urban areas. There’s a term for this: environmental racism.

At six, Meller developed asthma; something prevalent amongst students in her school. Looking for a cause drew attention to the various plants located in her neighborhood — garbage, sewage, landfill and coal-fired power — and the toxins they spewed.

When Healthy Connecticut Alliance asked Meller to speak at a Bridgeport City Hall event targeted towards getting the coal-fire plant retired, she agreed, writing her own speech and taking to the podium.

Meller drew on her heroes when waging her campaign to close down Bridgeport’s plants. At the top of her heroes list — her parents… Lessons Meller drew from other heroes:
“Harriet Tubman proved if you put your mind to it, you’ll be able to free yourself from oppression.”


Climate Activist and Educator

Samrat Pathania is a passionate advocate for the environment and former chair and coordinator of the New Paltz (NY) Climate Action Coalition. He teaches physics, mathematics and software programming at Wallkill High School. He is especially concerned with the impact of digital technologies on human well-being and flourishing. After receiving a degree in mechanical engineering from the Nat’l Institute of Technology, Jamshedpur (India), Samrat worked as a software engineer with multinational corporations. He earned ia BS in Math and Secondary Education Physics from SUNY New Paltz with outstanding graduate awards in each. He was the sole winner of the 2017 STEM Teacher Scholarship from the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation and won a 2017 Mathematics Graduate Course Work Scholarship from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. 


Research Director

Kathleen Nolan, MD, MSL, is Mountainkeeper’s Senior Research Director working out of our Woodstock, NY office, where she focuses on issues related to the health impacts of fracking and fossil fuel infrastructure, and spearheads our work in the Catskills High Peaks region. She majored in philosophy and theology at Saint Louis University and graduated with honors, going on to pursue her Medical Degree, along with a Masters of Studies in Law, from Yale. Following a residency in pediatrics and fellowship training in clinical research design, she worked at the Hastings Center, writing and teaching on diverse topics in bioethics. 


Actor/ Director, Chairperson for Hudson Valley Climate Reality Project

Tim Guinee is an actor and director. He has appeared in over two-hundred movies, mini-series and episodes of television and another couple hundred plays. He is also a leader and mentor with former Vice-President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and is the Chairperson of the Climate Reality Hudson Valley/Catskills Chapter. In this capacity he has given presentations all over North America on the latest science regarding climate change and the vital actions we must take to address the challenge. He serves on the board of Green Product Placement, and the Advisory Boards of the Climate Institute and Cirque School LA. Mr Guinee is also a beekeeper, a firefighter, and a tight wire walker. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, when he isn’t on the road for work.


Climate Coordinator @ The Wild Center

As the climate and communities coordinator for The Wild Center, Erin Griffin works to empower students throughout New York to take climate action, supports youth climate summits in many locations, and manages the NOAA-funded Convening Young Leaders for Climate Resilience project.


Singer,Songwriter, and Performing Artist

Born and raised on Earthwork Farm in rural Northern Michigan, Seth Bernard was brought up in the folk and farmstead culture with an enriching integrative experience of the arts, agriculture, and community. In 2001, Seth founded Earthwork Music, a renowned Michigan-based collective of successful independent musicians who focus their efforts on environmental advocacy, social justice, creative empowerment and community building.
Seth has served as the Director of the Musical Ambassador Program for On the Ground where he helped cultivate partnerships and cultural exchanges between communities in southern Mexico, Ethiopia and eastern Congo and communities in Michigan with a focus on solidarity and creative collaboration. “Eggs” Bernard is a NMEAC Environmentalist of the Year Award winner for Arts Education and has worked with SEEDS and On Stage for Kids bringing nature-based experiential creative empowerment to young people across the Great Lakes region and beyond.
Seth is a prolific songwriter and recording artist with 12 solo albums and a dozen more collaborative projects in his catalogue. He’s won 8 Jammie awards as a recording artist and producer, and has been a longtime iconic leader and steward of Michigan’s music community. His newest work, “Eggtones”, is a four album series released over the last 2 years to critical acclaim


Environmental Educator, Biomimicry Educator and Author

Dorna Schroeter recently retired after 37 years as the coordinator of Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES’ Center for Environmental Education. CEE provided programs for some 40,000 students annually from schools in six counties in southeast NYS. The programs included student programs at their nature center and local schools; a summer science camp, The JASON Project, marine ecology programs in the Florida Keys for middle and high school students and professional development workshops for educators.
Two of her expertise are in Sustainability and Biomimicry. Her K-12 sustainability programs were popular in the local schools. She helped develop a K-12 multidisciplinary web-based Education for Sustainability curriculum, co-founded the Children’s Environmental Literacy Foundation and has organized and led many teacher workshops.
Dorna is a member of the Biomimicry Institute’s International Leadership Team, an advisor to their Educator’s Network (BEN) and a judge for their Youth Design Challenge. In 2019 the team she co-coached in her hometown of Rhinebeck, NY, won the middle school division of the YDC. Dorna just published the first in a series of children’s stories related to biomimicry and is working on a second series related to sustainability on the individual level.


Youth Activist, Scientist, Model, and Artist

Madeleine is a 23-year old environmental youth activist, scientist, model, and artist born and raised in NYC. She has been speaking out against water issues since the age of nine, when she founded her first non-profit organization which raised awareness about climate change and water drought in Africa which was acknowledged by Bill McKibben’s national climate rally. At the age of 16, Madeleine appeared as one of six youth plaintiffs as part of the hugely influential Our Children’s Trust lawsuit, which sued the US government and the EPA and reached the Supreme Court.

Since graduating from Barnard College in 2018 with a degree in Environmental Policy and microplastics science, Madeleine has chosen to direct her efforts towards sustainability in the fashion industry looking at microfibers. As a member of Model Activist, she not only collaborates with environmentally-focused fashion brands that reflect her sustainable and vegan values, but consults brands on their sustainability practices. Madeleine has spoken at countless events globally, and works to communicate complex environmental issues to her peers with creativity, compassion, and empathy.


Communications Coordinator at Sustainable Hudson Valley

Julia Farawell is the Administrative Assistant and Communications Coordinator at Sustainable Hudson Valley. Julia graduated in 2018 from SUNY New Paltz. As a resident of the Hudson Valley, Julia has dedicated her time to local nonprofit organizations and campaigns centered around issues of sustainability, consumer advocacy and voter mobility. She will be supporting YESS! Participants by teaching them the benefits of eating a plant-rich diet, composting at home, switching to reusable personal items, being conscious of food waste reduction and the importance of repairing their belongings.


The Ashokan Center is an outdoor education, conference, and retreat center located in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. Schools have used Ashokan’s “classroom” of forests, waterfalls, stream-fed ponds, and open meadows for over 40 years.

Woodstock Day School is a progressive independent school set on a beautiful 40-acre campus in New York’s pristine Hudson Valley.

Click Here for YESS! 2020 Schedule

Program begins Thursday morning at 9am. We’re offering an extra night of lodging (Wednesday) at no extra charge for those who prefer to arrive that evening. Please select this option during your registration.

9am: check-in and lodging assignments
10am: Welcome Presentation Jeanne Flemming, Jim Hanson
11am: Pair/Share time for students to develop questions, followed by 40 min Q&A with Jim
12:30 Lunch (food waste challenge)
1:30 Team Building
2:15 Young Voices for the Planet with Lynne Cherry
3:30 & 4:30 breakout groups: How to effectively Communicate with Tim Guinnee and Sunrise Youth Presentation
5:30 Dinner
7:00 Wild Center 

details coming soon

details coming soon

Students will be supervised by our skilled staff. Medical information must be submitted during registration. 

$500 includes all workshops and activities, lodging, and meals. This price applies to all students or teacher/administrators attending. 

To request financial assistance please call or email Dan Shornstein (845) 657-8333 x-27 dan.shornstein@ashokancenter.org 

You must pay in full when you register.

Partial refunds are available until Thursday, Jan 23, 2020 (two weeks before summit begins.) We retain $50 per person for cancellations up to that date. We retain the full registration amount for cancellations after Thursday, Jan 23, 2020.

All meals and snacks are included in the summit. You may select omnivore, no red meat, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free meals. We make every effort to include a range of allergen-free dishes and to inform diners of meal ingredients.

STUDENT LODGING: Student Lodging is in shared large bunk rooms designated by age and/or gender with up to 24 students in each room.  Ashokan Center Educator Staff will act as supervisory bunk chaperones at night. Pillows are available, please bring your own pillow case, towel, and sleeping bag or bedding. 

TEACHER LODGING:  Teacher Lodging is in smaller shared bunk rooms with 2 to 4 teachers in each room. Pillows are available, please bring your own pillow case, towel, and sleeping bag or beddingThere are light quilts in each teacher room.

There are a small number of light blankets for those bunkhouse residents who are unable to bring one of their own. If you will need us to provide one, please let us know well in advance.

Please email us with specific food or lodging questions and requests.

PERSONAL ITEMS: Sleeping bag or blanket and linens, towel, soap, flashlight, earplugs (for light sleepers). There are light quilts in each private room and a small number of light blankets for those bunkhouse residents who are unable to bring one of their own. If you will need us to provide one, please let us know well in advance and we’ll do our best. Hand-held recorders are welcome. 

CLOTHING: Prepare for weather to vary from cold and snowy to cool and rainy. Hats, gloves, and boots are a must for outdoor activities!

Incoming mail

Your Name c/o Ashokan Music & Dance
477 Beaverkill Rd, 
Olivebridge, NY 12461

Outgoing mail leaves each weekday at 4pm.

Dan Shornstein (845) 246-2121 x 27, or (845) 417-6119 cel 
Ashokan Center (845) 657-8333 standard business hours

Cell phone reception is available but spotty. Calls may be dropped but texts are reliably received.

High speed Wi-Fi is available in all buildings.

Physical Address:
Ashokan Center, 477 Beaverkill Rd, Olivebridge, NY 12461

Take NY State Thruway (1-87) to Kingston exit #19.
From traffic circle take Route 28 West (toward Pine Hill).
In 12 miles (shortly after Mobil & Citgo) turn left onto Reservoir Rd.
Cross the Ashokan Reservoir, turn left at the Tee.
Head down the hill, pass the first left (Rt 28A East) and merge onto 28A West.
Take next left onto Beaverkill Rd.
Follow Beaverkill for about one mile, then turn right into the Ashokan Center driveway and follow the signs.

AIRPORT  Albany, NY (ALB) is the closest major airport (about 1.5 hours away). Public transportation is available from the airport to the Kingston bus station, where you can take a taxi to Ashokan. Or contact us at least one month before your program begins for a list of people driving from the Albany area who may be able to give you a ride.

BUS  Trailways (800)858-8555 runs buses from Port Authority terminal in Manhattan to Kingston, NY (2 hours).

 If you’re arriving by public transportation and would like assistance finding a ride to Ashokan please contact Dan dan.shornstein

Close Menu