Talking Green: Local Students Tackle Local Climate Issues with YVSC

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 has just completed the second term of its new 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 field of sustainability.

They do this by connecting their interns 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 tenure.

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

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

Lillian is a student at Colorado Mountain College. Lillian worked under the mentorship of YVSC Waste Diversion Manager Winn Cowman to lay the groundwork for implementing composting at local restaurants.

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

“I feel like I gained a lot of important knowledge and experience during my time with YVSC,” Svoboda said. “I have enjoyed working with YVSC and am grateful for all the opportunities they have given me.”

Lillian’s project is an important step towards a more sustainable waste diversion system in our community.

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

The frequency of high-intensity, long-duration wildfires and disturbances is increasing in our intermountain west as it warms and dries out. Luke’s research directly helps YVSC prioritize opportunities and identify the role YVSC can play in helping partners support the resilience of local landscapes.

Are you a student or young professional looking for professional experience and training in the field of sustainable development in the Yampa Valley? Then apply to the YVSC internship program.

We have three 12-week terms throughout the year: Spring, Summer and Fall. We encourage people from all backgrounds to apply for this position. No prior 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 January 28. The spring term runs from February 7 to May 6. You can find more details at

Nicole Pepper is a Geospatial Analyst and Internship Program Manager for the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.

Teresa H. Sadler