This January 23-25, the Gulf Restoration Network hosted the Students United for A Healthy Gulf Leadership Conference at Tulane University in New Orleans. The group of 22 student leaders attending came from the Gulf Coast of Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi; as well as the New Orleans metro area, in order to gain the knowledge, skills, and inspiration to be effective advocates for a healthy Gulf.On Friday evening, after an introduction to GRN by Executive Director, Cyn Sarthou, everyone got to know one another over a po-boy dinner and continued to build the community of students working on Gulf environmental issues.Saturday consisted of issue briefings from GRN staff, followed by workshops to develop grassroots organizing skills, such as petitioning, tabling, and public speaking. Assisting the workshops were experienced GRN interns Jennifer Pipitone, Liz Doyaga, and Sunshine Bond, and students had the opportunity to get practical experience petitioning on Tulane’s and Loyola’s campuses.Sunday capped off the weekend with a canoe trip along Cane Bayou that feeds into Lake Pontchartrain, with guidance from tour director Byron Almquist. Students got to witness first hand the natural beauty offered by Louisiana, while also seeing the unintended consequences of reckless development on our wetlands. With this inspiration, we held an impromptu Save Our Cypress rally at a Home Depot in Covington to protest the unsustainable production of cypress mulch.Many thanks to Canoe and Trail Adventure for donating the guided canoe trip, and to Whole Foods for providing breakfast. Most of all, thanks to all the dedicated student activists who work with GRN to defend our Gulf!

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