Young Leaders Award recipient Dyson Chee is a youth activist living on the Hawaiian Island of Oʻahu. In 2018, Dyson founded Project O.C.E.A.N. Hawaii to take on single-use plastics, and since 2019 he has been serving as a director for the Hawaiʻi Youth Climate Coalition (HYCC), a youth-led, community advocacy organization dedicated to fighting for climate justice. Dyson is currently attending the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Communicology, Economics, and Political Science. In his free time, Dyson loves playing tennis, drinking boba tea, and bodyboarding.
Dyson's Project: HYCC Club Network
The Club Network is a program of the Hawaiʻi Youth Climate Coalition (HYCC) that seeks to connect environmental and civic clubs across Hawaiʻi in order to work together and mobilize youth to fight the climate crisis on a local level.
We recently checked in with Dyson to learn more about his background and plans for the conservation and regeneration of the planet.
Walking Softer: What brought you to your work in climate and environmental justice?
Dyson: My love for the ocean and the people here are what brought me into the climate justice work that I do today. As a kid, I was always in the ocean, and it became a second home to me that I cherished and adored. But after seeing firsthand the threats of plastic pollution and climate change killing off the home that I loved, I knew that I had to do something about it. Having been born and raised on Oʻahu, I consider the local community to be an extension of family, and I want to stay here to be a part of our collective fight against the powers that drive the climate crisis.
Walking Softer: What is a milestone on your climate action journey thus far?
Dyson: One milestone that I will forever cherish is our effort to phase out disposable plastics on Oʻahu back in 2019. Almost no one thought that we could do it, but (spoiler alert) we did! Youth, working alongside non-profit leaders, community members, elected officials, conscientious businesses, and people from all walks of life, passed one of the most stringent disposable plastic bans in the nation. As the teenager who spearheaded the youth movement, this was proof to me that our collective voices can make a difference and turn the "impossible" into a possible reality. I will never forget the cheers and tears of joy that day we passed the bill.
Walking Softer: What do you do for self-care and fun?
Dyson: Self-care is tough! I avoid burnout and keep things fun by playing tennis, spending time in the ocean, and making sure to set time for friends and family.
Walking Softer: Any people or organizations that you would like to thank?
Dyson: I would like to thank Katie Allen and the rest of the Algalita team for nominating me and being a pillar of support, Lucy Fagan and Michaella Villanueva for sparking the Club Network idea and program, everyone at the Hawaiʻi Youth Climate Coalition for being a special community within a community, and Manar Elkebir for always listening and giving me a space to vent my nervousness.
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The Young Leaders Award is a year-long program that supports passionate, young leaders who are vital agents of change and innovators of solutions for our planet.