By Jeanne Gallagher

Kamilia Nicolas ’24 thrives in high-pressure environments. A senior at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Nicolas was class president when she entered college in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, managing to lead the freshman and work with the university administration through the then unknown territory. She flourished as an intern in the New Jersey Assembly and the New York City Council where she engaged in conservation issues and constituent services.

But planning the Capital Region’s first ever Youth Climate Career Summit has been her most challenging opportunity to date.

“With the news always talking about tragic things regarding climate change and the future,” Nicolas said, “it makes people feel discouraged. There’s a lot of good work that people are doing. We’re the next decision makers, so we have to be the ones that are equipped to move forward. That is what the Summit is all about.”

Nicolas has been passionate about sustainability and diversity from a young age. She attended a magnet high school in New Jersey taking classes in manufacturing and engineering that she says were a direct pathway for her to study sustainability and architecture at Rensselaer.

“I have the STEM background that is a good fit for RPI and the School of Architecture gives me the hands-on design work I need to implement change in the real world.”

Planning the Youth Climate Career Summit began as part of Nicolas’ summer job with TAP Inc., a nonprofit community design center providing design and planning services to low- and moderate-income property owners in Troy. Held in April at the Russell Sage Lab, the career fair attracted over 100 attendees from the Rensselaer student community, as well as across the Capital Region.

Nicolas says that young people know that the world of their future will be different from today. But with the robust background in critical thinking and instruction in the innovation of new technological platforms she received at Rensselaer, Nicolas is prepared to change the world as she joins Schneider Electric in their Sustainability Consulting Leadership Program.

“Sustainability goes much further than climate change,” Nicolas said. “Sustainability goes into issues of equity, issues of racism, and other large social constructs. With the Summit, we created actionable items that young people can move forward on. We can talk about ideas and the woes of climate change but then we actually have to do something about it, we have to find a solution for it.”