A Summary of the Lincoln 2023 IWLA National Convention
By Ingrid Koehler
This year, the national convention for the Izaak Walton League of America was hosted in Lincoln, Nebraska, and took place over the weekend of July 27-29. Fortunately, several youth and adult leaders of the Green Crew attended the national convention to represent the Minnesota Valley chapter. The team included; Camille Morton, Ingrid Koehler, Joseph Barisonzi, Hannah Barisonzi, Ted Suss, and Denice Burbach. The convention was filled with presentations, elections, and many group meals where delegates from each state could gather and meet. This was the first national convention for the Green Crew team and was undoubtedly a successful experience for the division and especially, the young adults.
In order to make this convention possible, all travel and fees were paid for by donations to the Minnesota Valley Chapter. The Green Crew team acknowledges and sincerely appreciates all the support from our friends (and fellow members) of the Minnesota Valley Chapter.
The first event at the convention was the awards luncheon and ceremony. The Minnesota table was filled quickly by other Division members including; Richard Staffron, Gary and Cherry Swartz, Willis Mattison and Jill Crafton. The complete list of winners can be located on the IWLA website: From the IWLA website.
The first awards recognized divisions that experienced significant membership growth in the past year. Cass County and Minnesota Valley, from Minnesota, were recognized for exceeding 110% Growth. The Minnesota Valley Chapter was then awarded the Membership Merit Award for the top growth of a chapter (51-250 Member class) in the Country!
The Minnesota table erupted in cheers when it was announced the Minnesota Division won the Arthur R. Thompson Memorial Award 2022 in recognition of the state division with the most outstanding conservation programs. The youth programming, chapter grants, and UMRI program were highlighted. As 1st VP of the Minnesota Division, Joseph Barisonzi collected (and promptly dropped) the Award.
Not long after, The Minnesota Valley Chapter IWLA was awarded the Robert C. O’Hair Award 2022 in recognition of outstanding chapter youth work during the past year. Camille was joined in the collection of the Award by Ingrid and Hannah.
Next up was Breckenridge Chapter member Tyler Winter who was awarded the Conservation Award 2022 in recognition of a member’s outstanding accomplishments and devoted service to the League. His effort to bring fishery management to non-game native fish (“rough fish”) in Minnesota was celebrated by all.
Camille returned to the podium to collect the Outdoor America’s Future Award 2022. The Award recognized her commitment and conservation work by a chapter youth or student member who is considered an “up-and-coming” future League leader. As the Green Crew President, Chapter Board member, Division Board member, and Chapter’s delegate to the convention we could not agree more! She received a standing ovation from folk at many tables.
A little while later, Joseph returned to the podium to collect the Thelma “Pete” Reed Memorial Award 2022. It was awarded in recognition of outstanding qualities of character, dedication, and volunteer leadership and for the distinguished status as a future League Leader. This time he did not drop this award. The cheers were loud so many people missed that his award was not only for his role in launching and supporting the Green Crew but his leadership with all aspects of the Chapter and his leadership at the Division level.
Our table went nuts one last time – when the Hall of Fame Award 2022 winners were announced. The Hall of Fame is in recognition of a member’s outstanding accomplishments and devoted service to the League. There were five inductees for 2022 – and two were sitting at our table. First up was Richard C. Staffon from the W. J. McCabe Chapter in Duluth. Next up was Ted L Suss from Minnesota Valley. All of his accomplishments were read and he had time to go up, get his award, and come back to the table while they were still sharing about his impact.
Chapter Defender Awards
The 2022 Defenders Chapter Achievement Awards was awarded to 44 League Chapters. Of those, 12 were from Minnesota! Gary Swartz, our Division’s Award Committee Chair and national Committee member was roundly congratulated, especially when he went up to pick up all of the certificates! Minnesota’s strong representation is due to Gary going above and beyond calling every chapter and working with them to truly document all of the great conservation work which they do.
After the awards were all received, we took lots of pictures, and then broke for afternoon activities.
Parade of States and Ice Cream Sundays
The Green Crew youth retired to our house rental to prepare for our presentation the next morning. The other members of the Minnesota Delegation joined in the Parade of States. And then, honoring a long-time tradition, the Minnesota Delegation hosted ice cream Sundays. This was hosted by Gary and Cherry Swartz with support from Jill and Willis. Ted Suss joined as one of the servers and reported lots of positive comments about the work being done in Minnesota.
Green Crew’s Convention Presentation
The Convention reconvened at 9am on Friday morning starting with an exciting announcement revealing the location for the 2024 National Convention in Cambridge, Mayland. Immediately following the opening presentation, Green Crew was invited onto the stage.
Joseph opened with a short segment explaining that the IWLA is waning in influence and power. He emphasized the necessity of including youth in all factions of the IWLA and pushing the notion that the league is aging out. The message was bold but received positive feedback from audience members.
After less than five minutes, Joseph yielded his time and invited Camille, Ingrid, and Hannah who took the stage to finish the rest of the presentation.
The young women each rotated speaking time to explain the backstory of Green Crew, the impact of our key service projects, and the endless reasons to include youth in leadership. Camille Morton, President of Green Crew, delivered a passionate monologue on providing more opportunities for young adults in each Division and calling for the right age range at the national convention. She summed up the theme of the presentation perfectly stating, “If you want youth to be there in the future – you need to involve them in the present”.
Joyfully, the three young women received a standing ovation following their presentation and accumulated lots of encouraging feedback from audience members. As per the newsletter from the convention: “The Green Crew Rocked the Convention”. The impact from the Green Crew presentation raised interest from other chapters nationwide and many delegates expressed definite inspiration to start new Green Crews across the United States.
Green Crew Workshop
In the afternoon on Friday, Green Crew hosted two 45-minute workshops that focused on the key components of building a Green Crew. The flow of the workshop was simple and personal, there were three stations hosted by one or two members representing the Green Crew. Hannah and Denice created a station that simulated a “fake” project so attendees could learn how projects are organized and visualize the web of leadership. However, there was a twist, the simulated project was real depictions of the Elm Restoration project. At the next station, Joseph and Ted created a document that outlined the general structure of a Green Crew. The document covered youth leadership roles and adult advisor roles. Most importantly, Ted and Joseph discussed how to leverage the IWLA and Scouts of America into a Green Crew. Finally, Camille and Ingrid designed a colorful packet that featured a “Year In the Life” at Green Crew, methods to recruit youth members, and a ladder that explained the progression of leadership roles.
The turnout was better than expected, every chair was filled during the first session and attendees were incredibly attentive, taking notes and asking many questions. Common questions included how Green Crew membership correlated with IWLA membership and whether it is necessary that members register as a Scout when joining Green Crew. The second session was smaller in attendance but Green Crew was fortunate to be joined by National leaders, Jodi and Steve Labs. We were also joined by several staff members including Executive Director Scott Kovarovics.
There were two resolutions on the floor from the Minnesota Division for consideration. The Climate Restoration Resolution (restore the air by removing carbon from the atmosphere) from the Minnesota Valley Chapter, while unanimously supported by the Division, was killed at the national level by the Energy and Environment Committee. The Committee, chaired by Minnesota’s National Committee member Jill Crafton unanimously voted not to send it to the Convention for consideration.
Another resolution from the Minnesota Division to incentivize the adoption of electric motors failed. One reason seemed to be a misunderstanding that it would lead to people’s gas-motorized lawn equipment being taken away, rather than incentives to replace polluting small engines with cleaner ones.
The final resolution from the Minnesota Division expressing opposition to CO2 pipelines was approved by the Convention.
What We Learned
The National Convention was the next step for the Green Crew and many lessons were learned during our short time in Lincoln, Nebraska.
We realized that our presentation was not created in total consideration of the audience. Our intent was to create a presentation that was merely a script in order to spend more time speaking to the members referring to a slideshow. However, many members and delegates requested that slides be used at the next conference in order to provide visual context. Furthermore, we learned that talking pace is crucial and will be emphasized in the preparation process before the 2024 convention. It is important that we take steps to allow the audience to see and hear clearly in order to understand our message.
We also learned that our model of Green Crew may not be designed to accommodate every community, especially in rural locations or places with different weather patterns. The Minnesota Valley operates around a long winter season which allows plenty of time to plan projects and train leaders but the time to physically execute each project is severed. During the convention, we realized there is a great advantage in starting Green Crews in warmer states! I believe we will have no problem recruiting volunteers this winter to travel to warm-climate locations to launch new Crews.
Finally, we learned that there is tremendous interest and enthusiasm from many Chapters across the Country in launching Green Crews. Yes, there remain legitimate questions and even concerns, but there was significant optimism about the Green Crew model. Business cards were shared, and future meetings were scheduled!
As the programming of Green Summer 2023 comes to a close, the Green Crew is hoping to continue increasing membership at the Minnesota Valley chapter. By the end of Green Camp, we are hoping that there are eager campers who want to commit further and become a full-time member. We are excited to support the sprouting of other Green Crews and cheer loudly as more youth unite to solve the climate crisis.
We will continue to push for young adults involvement and continue to push for young adult involvement at the Chapter, Division, and National level. While there were only three young adults at the 2023 National Convention, we wish to see the numbers double or hopefully, triple by next year. We hope the presence of young adults actively participating in the IWLA National Conference loses its novelty and becomes a distinct aspect of this organization.
Finally, we are anticipating a smooth transition as our President (Camille Morton) and Secretary (Ingrid Koehler) will step down from their roles as they head off to begin their post-secondary endeavors. Marina Marcon will assume the official role of President in September and Ronia Mukherjee will assume the role of Secretary. A complete list of the oncoming executive board is here. We wish the best for our 2023 cabinet and feel more than confident that they will continue upholding the impressive legacy of our youth program at Green Crew.
Ingrid Koehler is the outgoing Secretary of the Green Crew. One of the Green Crew founders, Ingrid has been involved in all aspects of the Green Crew’s incredible growth of the past two years. She is taking a gap year in Norway and entering McGill University in 2024. Everyone hopes she will stay active with the Crew!