Youth of Sustainability!
These are just some of the incredible youth in our Marin community that are making a difference whether locally, globally, or both.
Please take a moment to read their stories:
Julia Hedleman, Senior (2016)
Julia Hedleman, current senior and leader at Sir Francis Drake High School, has involved herself through many programs and her own start ups to give herself an extensive background in social justice and environmental issues. She began in a 7th and 8th grade summer camp under the Jewish Family and Children Services organization called Summer Impact. Under this program she spent many hours over the course of her summer break volunteering at food banks and homeless shelters.
After learning that she wanted to pursue this field of work, Julia joined the Ceres Community Project, where she volunteered as a teen chef, cooking free meals for families who are either physically or financially unable to make food. Julia has been volunteering here 3-4 hours every week since sophomore year, where she says, “..it gave me a better understanding of the importance of sustainability; we cooked with organic greens and healthy foods.”
After her start in the Ceres project, Julia began a Summer internship before her junior year at the Academy of Sustainability and Communications. Here she spent her time interviewing environmental leaders from around the world. She interviewed people working with Native American tribes, learning their views on global warming by Earth’s changing landscape, and even spoke with German NASA scientists on their work with satellites measuring chlorophyll fluorescence. With the write ups from her interviews, Julia spoke on the local KALW radio station, getting these new ideas and people heard all over Marin County.
Not stopping there, Julia joined an internship with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, doing a wide range of work with 17 other high schoolers from the area. They restored sensitive habitat, did invasive species removal, trail maintenance, learned archeology on Mt. Tam while looking for cultural artifacts, along with learning leadership skills and the skills required for applying for jobs. This program was topped off with a four night camping trip in Yosemite, where she and her team spent time hiking and doing trail maintenance. The trip provided her a 1000 dollar stipend, so as she put it, “It couldn’t have been better, I was paid 250 dollars to camp in Yosemite for four days.”
More recently, Julia has been leading her recent start-up at Drake- the Microfinance club. Through this club, she fundraises online, through bake sales, and other methods to raise money for impoverished people around the world. Yet this club does not simply dump off money to impoverished families- they select people in poverty who need a loan, people who need certain resources in order to make a living for themselves. For example, Julia said, “Some people just need initial money to build a pen for their chicken, so they can sell their eggs in the market, so they can put their kids through an education.”
Julia will continue her work in the social justice and environmental field through college at UC Berkeley, and we are lucky as she is clearly making a difference as a youth in our community.
Cheyenne Clark, Senior, (2016)
Born and raised with ideals centered around an environmentally sustainable community, Drake senior Cheyenne Clark has become a youth leader in the push for change. Joining the two year environmental program, SEA-DISC, in her junior year, she started implementing the values of the program in her daily life. Simply by reusing old yogurt containers, utensils, recycling her waste, and more, she says, “Becoming an environmentalist does not need to change your whole life, just a small change can make a huge difference.”
Cheyenne was honored last year with a congressional recognition, and became a delegate in the Youth Environmental Leadership Conference. In this four day overnight trip to El Dorado National Forest, she worked with 50 other CA youth, alongside the El Dorado Forest Service, in sharing ideas on ways to create more environmentally sustainable communities within our state.
Additionally, within her current internship with ‘Turning Green,’ a local organization focused and lifestyle choices, she helps put on environmental events such as the Conscious College Road Tour. Also through her ‘Turning Green’ internship, Cheyenne attended the Natural Products Expo West in LA for four days, where she learned about sustainable products, and was able to talk to big business organizations about the steps they’ve taken to be more eco-friendly.
Cheyenne plans to study environmental management and policy at University of Puget Sound.
Rylie Neely, Senior, (2016)
Rylie Neely is a 17 year old environmental youth activist, and a recently published author in the Huffington Post. Her passion, she remarks, comes from her involvement with a local club at her high school, Global Student Embassy. Through this environmental club, she traveled to Ecuador freshman year participating in a reforestation program planting trees, and later flew to Nicaragua to get first hand experience in sustainable agriculture, farming with the locals. “Some of the older club members were in college. They were inspiring to be around, and were the first people to get me excited about the environment.”
From there, Rylie followed in her family’s footsteps in joining an environmental program that took her to the Eleuthera islands in the Bahamas. At ‘The Island School,’ established 18 years ago, Rylie took real course classes such as marine ecology, sustainable systems, and tourism development– scuba diving and exploring the culture of the island with friends all the while. She remembers, “We’d sit 40 feet down on the ocean floor, next to a coral reef, all with our underwater notebooks, taking notes in our underwater class.”
With knowledge and connections gained from the Island School, Rylie entered the second year of her environmental program at Sir Francis Drake High School, SEA-DISC. A two year junior/senior split program, SEA-DISC teaches environmental science through an AP and internship class, using field work as the groundwork for the academy. More recently, Rylie has been working on a campaign through her internship, ‘There Is No Away,’ in trying to stop straw use from restaurants in nearby local towns, and implementing plastic recycling programs in local school systems. Her most recent accomplishment through her internship, under the guidance of Heather Itzla, is the publishment of her article, The Gift From Our Precursors, which highlights her plastic straw banning campaign as well as the consequences of the actions people are making regarding plastic.
Rylie looks to widen her knowledge and involvement in the environmental field in her upcoming years as she attends Lewis and Clark College.