The Gunston School is pleased to announce that Julia Buchanan ’23 and Jessica Hammond ’24 were selected as student summit leaders for the 2022 Upper Shore Youth Environmental Action Summit (USYEAS). The March 19th conference focused on “The Power of Youth,” and was held at Washington College in Chestertown, Md. The summit celebrated students who take environmental issues into their own hands, offering the opportunity to get advice from environmental action experts, network with professionals in green career fields, and learn more about student environmental action from their peers.
Bucchanan recently finished the Chesapeake Watershed Semester (CWS), the Gunston School’s semester-based program that focuses on environmental science, leadership, and policy. Hammond is a Girl Scout working on her Gold Award project which will help prevent erosion by using oysters and has plans to attend the CWS program in the fall of 2022.
“As student leaders, first and foremost we were responsible for being models for behavior and action,” Buchanan explained. “So this meant showing people why it was important to get outside, to advocate for the environment, and to show people what action they could take.” In addition to a presentation, summit leaders were responsible for getting the word out and were tasked with creating social media posts, videos, and promotional flyers as well as setting the overall tone for the summit itself. “We wanted it to be something fun, something students wanted to dedicate their Saturday to, so we did our best to think up some fun activities that would make the summit interesting,” she recalls.
Hammond adds, “I have always been interested in the environment and when I understood about the effects of climate change and the scale of the issues, I decided I want to learn how I can help.”
“These two students showed a particularly high level of independence in applying to be leaders at the summit,” said CWS Faculty Ronnie Vesnaver. “What is so wonderful about environmental education is that it inspires students to act. These students stepped up to do just that while also communicating the importance of an essential part of environmentalism– connecting with and celebrating the natural world.” The following are excerpts from their presentations:
“One source of inspiration for me and many of my peers are youth climate activists. People like Greta Thunberg and her colleagues have taught me how change is driven by passion, not by age, gender, or race. […] One person who is such an inspiration to me is Melati Wijsen, who, at only 12 years old started a movement called ‘Bye Bye Plastic Bags’ in 2013. Melati, along with the people in her movement, accomplished getting rid of plastic bags, straws, and styrofoam all throughout Bali by 2019. This resonates and has deeply inspired me. In middle school, I participated in a project [and] made reusable bags and stood outside of stores [in Easton] trying to convince people to go plastic free. These youths are such an inspiration for me and hopefully you as well! Every single person will be affected by climate change if it has not affected you already. However, the first step to solving a problem is to learn about the issues and find the best solutions, which is why we are here today.”
– Jessica Hammond ’24.
“To the older generations, climate change is something new and unfamiliar. These generations associate our lack of time on this planet to lack of knowledge about environmental issues. However, to us, these issues are something we’ve been hyper aware of since we were young. We’ve grown up seeing the effects of climate change, unlike most of the generations before us. While youth activists can be sources of inspiration, so can the environment itself. It can provide you with a sense of calm, through its slow flowing rivers, lush green landscapes, and the sound of wind through the trees. Or it might provide for you a sense of power, with its roaring waterfalls, strong winds, and cracks of thunder. To me, and maybe to you, the environment instills a sense of pride. […] The first step of environmental action is getting out in nature and understanding what the environment means to you. […] Why should you care? This is why it is so important to get out into the world around you, to understand those feelings connected with nature, and why things are the way they are. If we don’t get outside and explore the world around us, then how are we supposed to be passionate about changing it?”
– Julia Buchanan ’23
Founded in 1911, The Gunston School is an independent, nonprofit, nonsectarian, coeducational, college preparatory high school located in Centreville, Maryland. Visit gunston.org for more information.