Creating a climate for community change in SE Minnesota

September 2022

Organizations like Growing up Healthy in Northfield, MN understand that the first step toward progress isn’t always action, it’s simply listening. Director Jennyffer Barrientos says that listening was foundational to the success of a recent community project. Supported by a CERTs seed grant, the project prioritized what local Latine community members wanted to learn about energy efficiency and climate change, and in response, created print and digital materials in Spanish and English. Growing Up Healthy has a 15-year history working in Northfield and through that work, has built trust with the local Latine community.


"Fruitful conversations with residents came from door-knocking in the neighborhoods and neighborhood-based interactions that removed transportation and other barriers to participation," said Barrientos. 

“Community members on the front lines of experiencing an energy burden and climate change must be prioritized and engaged in the process of creating educational resources and solutions."

- Jennyffer Barrientos, Growing Up Healthy Director

Two former Growing Up Healthy interns, Angie Orrego and Clarissa Guzman, spearheaded the project and organized conversions within the community. Together, the team orchestrated a door-knocking event at Viking Terrace Manufactured Home Park, and three community conversations and workshops. Plus, they worked with partners and public locations in the Northfield community that often engage with the Latine community.


“Establishing and maintaining strong relationships with community members through ongoing dialogue is very important.” says Barrientos. “Community members know what they need and have knowledge on how to solve the challenges they face. Those with decision-making power need to listen and dedicate needed resources.”

Channeling community strength

“Often people think that they need to be experts on climate change when, in fact, it's the personal experiences that make the issue more meaningful. And I think that's where the passion starts from,” says former Growing up Healthy intern, Clarissa Guzman. “When we did door knocking, we discussed a bunch of topics with people. Sometimes it was about frozen pipes in the winter, community resources, or climate change. After that, we knew what people wanted to hear about.”

Together the Growing Up Healthy team responded to the community by creating various educational materials in Spanish. The materials aim to engage the community in conversation and information-sharing, as well as solution building related to the climate crisis.


“We learned a lot from the community and then we went back to basics. For example, we went back to what is recyclable and what isn’t. Sometimes there’s information that some people might think is common sense but for whatever reason, we might not all understand,” says Barrientos.


The new materials include examples of natural disasters and climate impacts specific to the Latine and Minnesota communities, like how climate change has increased health concerns such as asthma. Tips to reduce your carbon footprint through changes like composting, recycling, and reducing plastic consumption are also included. Additionally, the messaging connects Spanish-speaking residents to resources already available in the Northfield community including the Recycling Center, Northfield Curbside Compost, and Growing up Healthy.

Download a PDF of the flyers here

“We see people in the community are very passionate, but don't know where to direct their energy or concerns. So it’s that much more important to have access to resources where they're able to empower themselves and actually create the difference that they want to see in their own community.”

- Clarissa Guzman, former Growing Up Healthy Intern
  • From Sunnyvale, California 
  • Graduated from Carleton College in June, 2022
  • Major: sociology, anthropology Minor: educational studies 
  • Currently working with the non-profit, Nebraska Appleseed
  • About her time with Growing Up Healthy:

“It was the first time where I felt like I was actually doing community organizing work, which is something that I'm really passionate about. It’s translated into my new position, where I'm doing community organizing to empower and create leadership within the local community. My internship with Growing Up Healthy gave me the starting ground to figure out where I want to be.”


Equitable empowerment

The Spanish resources project wrapped up in June and the team is proud of the work they accomplished with the community. Yet, they feel it’s important to recognize that this project is just one step in the right direction.

“The real work of combating climate change requires first acknowledging systemic environmental racism and the lack of resources in multiple languages on how climate change works and how it is affecting health."

- The Growing Up Healthy team

“By providing the community with local resources and tools, members report feeling empowered and knowledgeable to continue conversations about climate change," says the team.


Guzman says her experience with Growing up Healthy opened her eyes to the support needed in historically underserved communities. “Honestly, a lot of important work is made possible by money. It’s important in creating a more equitable environment, whether it's a Northfield or anywhere else,” says Guzman. “Because Growing Up Healthy was able to receive support from CERTs’ seed grants, this work was made possible. Support allows community projects that are meant to empower and ultimately, see the community succeed and work against the social barriers that they're facing.”


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