We need the diverse talents, influence, and knowledge of the entire South Bend community to respond appropriately to the climate emergency.
This spring (2023) Climate Action Ambassadors hosted one-hour events to assist a small group of participants in filling out a climate action survey and facilitated emergent conversations about climate change among residents.
Survey results will inform the update to South Bend’s Climate Action Plan and bolster our strength as a Midwestern city facing the impacts of global warming.
Meet the 2023 Climate Action Ambassadors
Katherine Couch is a South Bend native, who is currently completing her graduate degree at IU South Bend. She is working with the Town of Zionsville to establish a municipal composting site and with the Center for a Sustainable Future at IUSB, where she educates and connects local residents with sustainability resources in the greater Michiana area. Katherine is committed to building equitable, climate resilient communities throughout Indiana.
Francie Fink is passionate about community development and solving problems, both as a leader and a team player. She has experience working in project management, program development, education, climate advocacy, community engagement, and civic innovation. As an enFocus fellow, she leads and supports several environmental projects.
The Potawatomi Zoo has stepped up to the challenge of connecting global climate issues, including biodiversity loss, to the local level. Their education team will facilitate a Climate Action Survey Session with Zoo visitors.
John Gensic, an educator of 17 years, has taught science at Penn High School for the past ten years. He currently teaches 12th-grade Dual Credit Biology and serves as the STEM Academy Leader. He has also taught at New Prairie High School and St. Adalbert Catholic School. Gensic’s climate areas of interest are renewable energy at schools, getting students out in nature, and students planting trees.
Amber Herkey serves as the assistant program director of Justice Education at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns. She works with students, colleagues, community partners to address issues of social injustice through education and advocacy. Amber is especially concerned with amplifying the insights and solutions of populations in the South Bend community that experience environmental health disparities.
Avanti Lalwani owns Briter Products, Inc., an engineered transportation-solutions provider based in South Bend, Indiana. She says, “As a woman, minority small business owner with renewable products, I think education and dialogue are critical to meaningful climate action.”
Aleyna Mitchell is the Director of Development and Community Outreach at El Campito, an accredited bilingual child development center founded in 1970 to aid migrant families in coping with the struggles of starting a new life in South Bend. Aleyna develops partnerships within
the community to further advance El Campito’s mission and outreach. She has a passion for Indigenous gardening practices and providing support to current and future climate refugees in South Bend.
Aaron Nichols is on a team that works for college and career exploration for middle schoolers at the South Bend Schools. They want to create exposure activities for students to target students who might have a passion for cars. “The goal is to introduce them to the future they are walking into,” says Nichols. In partnership with Ms. Regina Williams-Preston at Navarre Middle School, Nichols is helping to create a sounding board of students to share input for electric vehicle infrastructure in South Bend.
Ray Rivera is a business student at Ivy Tech, and he finds sustainable business practices to be the most interesting focus in his academic work. He has significant experience with urban forestry in the city, as he interned with South Bend’s Venues, Parks, and Arts Forestry Division. He is also interested in the development of electric vehicle infrastructure in South Bend. Rivera is a local advocate for racial justice as a part of Black Lives Matter South Bend.
Kathy Schuth serves as executive director of the Near Northwest Neighborhood, Inc., (NNN), a non-profit community development corporation with a focus on the revitalization of the NNN through providing affordable housing, engaging community and building leadership, representing the interests of the neighborhood within the wider community, and fostering an inclusive and diverse neighborhood. Kathy is a licensed architect, a ND graduate, and her previous work experience has been drawn from Urban Design Associates in Pittsburgh, and locally with Duncan Stroik, and with Alliance Architects. Climate action areas of greatest interest include renewable energy sources, and electric vehicles.
Boris Touré is originally from the Ivory Coast in west Africa, but has lived in the South Bend region for the past 8 years. Says Touré, “I call it my second home, I arrived here as a teenager and today I am an adult. I represent the ‘Untapped talent’ of the South Bend Community. With my fellows international students, we represent a melting pot, and our difference of views will bring a shining difference with the South Bend community.”
Nikki Tredway is the Principal of Paramount Schools of Excellence. Paramount was a part of the last EASSI cohort group and is in the process of installing solar panels on the roof of the school.
Jeff Walker is the Director of Beacon Resource Center on the greater West side of the City. The Beacon is a shared space community center in a renovated bowling alley that is fertile ground for transformation on the westside of South Bend. Walker is also a South Bend/Mishawaka Leadership Alum which has also afforded him opportunities to be a servant leader in the community. He volunteers with Transformation Ministries where he serves their flagship program ISI as a team leader/mentor.
David Yang is a civic innovation fellow at enFocus Inc., a local non-profit, working on community development projects. Some of his projects include a city workforce development pilot program and building a data dashboard for the Northern Indiana Hispanic Health Coalition. He recently graduated with a B.S. from the University of Michigan in economics, and is excited to facilitate meaningful conversations for climate action. David is passionate about active transportation and expanding the climate workforce. In his free time, he enjoys running, playing the cello, and winning at bar trivia.
Kate Koval is the Controller at Cultivate Food Rescue. Cultivate is devoted to ending the cycle of hunger in the local communities of northern Indiana by providing a food rescue service. Kate has a passion for gardening, bulk food and meal prep, and education about sustainable lifestyle choices.
Climate Action Survey Sessions is an intentionally flexible project. The Office of Sustainability asked Climate Action Ambassadors to each host one event with 15 participants.
- 15 Climate Ambassadors each lead…
- One-hour Climate Action Survey Sessions with…
- ~15 community participants at each event
City government provided resources and direction, but otherwise allowed Climate Ambassadors to decide the best way to host their sessions. This allowed for flexibility and ingenuity during program implementation.
Responses collected in sessions will live on by informing the co-creation of an updated Climate Action Plan and ongoing progress of the City of South Bend’s Office of Sustainability.
This work is supported by the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) Emergent Learning Fund.
Office of Sustainability | Department of Community Investment | City of South Bend