Concord High teen brings environmental enthusiasm to National Youth Summit in D.C.

By NINA MOSKE

Monitor staff 

Published: 05-29-2023 3:00 PM

When Avery Mahon, a senior at Concord High School, first saw the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., on Monday, it was even better than the pictures. 

“It’s cool to see it online and hear all about it, but to see it in person is a totally different thing,” he said. “It was really awesome.” 

Mahon had traveled to the capital to share his passion for environmental conservation with other young people at the first annual National Youth Summit. The event was organized by the Mikva Challenge, a youth leadership and civic engagement organization. 

At the summit, which took place Sunday through Tuesday, young people, educators, policymakers, researchers and youth development leaders gathered to discuss issues like education, environment, mental health and gun reform. 

Mahon was one of 100 young people from around the country selected to participate. Two other Concord High School students, senior Matt Lane and junior Jeannette Vandel, also attended. 

Mahon applied at the suggestion of his social studies teacher and was “absolutely elated” to find out that he had been accepted. “I was super excited, and the opportunity now that I’m here has been just as exciting, if not more than I thought it was going to be,” he said. 

Mahon’s interest in the environment grew out of a childhood spent camping and hiking with his family. “I’ve kind of grown up in the outdoors,” he said. “I want to be able to keep that around for generations to come.”

At Concord High School, Mahon is the captain of both the mountain biking and rock climbing clubs and the founder of the Concord High Mountain Biking Alliance. “It’s really my passion to get more people outside, and to get more people to have personal connections to the environment,” he said. 

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Along with five other New Hampshire students, Mahon spoke to staffers of Representative Ann Kuster and Senator Maggie Hassan at the Capitol Building on Monday. They advocated for bills on child care, gun violence prevention and the environment, including the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program Act of 2023, legislation designed to encourage the collaborative, science-based ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes. 

Mallory Langkau, a teacher at Groveton High School who chaperoned the group from New Hampshire, said, “They were given the opportunity to get into the offices of congresspeople and sit down to voice their opinions, and it just gives me goosebumps to think about the opportunity to network in that way.” 

“There’s a misconception that young people don’t care, that they’re apathetic, when in reality they do care very much and want to make the world a better place,” said Langkau. “This summit was an opportunity to generate some conversations about how to do that.” 

After he graduates from Concord High School in June, Mahon plans to spend a gap year in New Zealand, rock climbing and obtaining wilderness certifications. He hopes to pursue a career in outdoor education. 

Mahon is eager to bring the lessons learned at the summit back to Concord. “The biggest takeaway I have is to not be afraid to speak out,” he said. “Don’t   be afraid to talk about what you love.” 

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