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September 8, 2022

Collaborative Student Fellows Program Inspires Work to Protect Future Generations from Climate Change

The Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues aims to develop a multidisciplinary network of students, faculty, centers, and programs across Georgetown interested and engaged in global children’s issues. Student Fellow Emily Prest (G’23) and Dr. Joan Lombardi, a collaborative senior fellow, demonstrated the strength of that network through a project that explores the impact of climate change on children.

Emily Prest in front of the Georgetown gates
Emily Prest in front of the Georgetown gates

Prest arrived at Georgetown as a graduate student in fall 2021 hoping to expand on the environmental justice work she had been involved with as an intern with the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. As part of the Environmental Metrology and Policy Program (EMAP) at Georgetown's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, she began to settle into a routine of taking courses in environmental economics and environmental law and thinking about her post-graduation plans. She didn’t expect to come across a new university-wide initiative that illustrated how she could link her interest in environmental issues with her work with vulnerable populations.

The student fellowship program has allowed me to dive deeper into the realm of environmental justice.

Since its launch in September 2021, the Collaborative on Global Children’s Issues has hosted a range of events with Georgetown centers and faculty as well as extensive partnerships with external stakeholders on urgent issues affecting children worldwide, including children migrating across the Americas, COVD-19 and caregiver loss; engaging youth in research, policy and practice, family-friendly policies for workers in the information economy; and child sexual exploitation and abuse prevention, protection, healing, and justice. In addition, the collaborative has engaged Georgetown students like Prest through its student fellows program, in which student fellows spend 18 weeks working with faculty mentors on research projects involving global children’s issues. She applied and was one of four students accepted into the inaugural student fellows program.

Emily Prest on the National Mall in Washington, DC
Emily Prest on the National Mall in Washington, DC

Lombardi, who is also a senior scholar at the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development, has spent decades researching and implementing child and family policy. Prest and Lombardi’s research project centers around the dramatic effects that climate change has on children now and the worsening effects it will have in the future. Prest found that climate change increases a child’s exposure to allergens, extreme heat, insect-borne disease, and contaminated water, creating greater risk to the developing child by threatening sickness or death. In addition, undernutrition caused by shifting agricultural productivity is likely to be the leading cause of child mortality resulting from climate change.

“Emily has made amazing breakthroughs in linking environmental issues to children's issues,” said Lombardi. “She is a stellar example of what can happen when we integrate issues facing children and youth into different areas of the university.”

Prest hopes her work, coupled with other work being done by scholars and youth activists, will create real change when it comes to both protecting vulnerable populations and fighting climate change.

“Continuing on the current trajectory, the children of today and tomorrow are unjustly and unfairly being forced to face a damaged world resulting from climate change,” she insists. 

It is up to the generations of today to protect those of tomorrow.

Through the collaborative’s student fellows program Prest was able to connect with child development experts and join conversations with organizations such as the Global Fund for Children and the Africa Early Childhood Network. Inspired by her work with the collaborative, Prest is now interning with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Children’s Health Protection. She sees the work she's done in the student fellows program as a springboard for her future endeavors.

“This fellowship further solidified my desire to be an environmental champion, helping to ensure our future generations live on a clean, healthy, and safe Earth."