Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.
When I was honored last Friday as a Champion of Change and participated in the subsequent video conference event with the other honorees, it became clear to me that the White House Administration and fellow youth around the nation have a commitment to environmental literacy. This essential commitment will engrain environmental consciousness into the next generation of decision makers.
During the summer of my freshman year of high school, I was a volunteer docent at "Cool Globes," an environmental exhibit at the California Science Center, providing tours and engaging public elementary schools students visiting on field trips. While volunteering, I noticed that the majority of students visiting the exhibit had difficulty answering what I thought to be basic questions, such as "Why is it important to protect our environment" or "Why is recycling good for the environment?"
I quickly understood my community's need for environmental education in public elementary schools and decided to create The GreenTeens, a program to increase students' understanding, inspire them to take action, and empower them to lead their communities toward green citizenship.
I recruited twelve passionate classmates from Marlborough School, was awarded a $2,500 grant from the Alliance for Climate Education and later a match grant from the U.S. Green Building Council, went through a six month curriculum planning period in order to develop a completely original curriculum created and taught by students for students, formulated additive relationships with other similar organizations such as Children's Nature Institute and A World Fit For Kids, and finally put our vision into action last fall!
During the 2010-2011 school year, The GreenTeens visited 5 public elementary schools in Los Angeles with our 4-day after-school environmental education program. We taught over 120 students this year and strive to reach a total of 450 students within the next two years. This year we are looking forward to expanding the volunteer aspect of our program to other high schools.
From this experience, I have learned that anything is possible with effort. You can impact people, you can impact the world, and it starts by raising your voice and taking action.
Alexa Boghosian, the 16-year old founder of Green Teens, recognizes her community's need for environmental education in public elementary schools, and is taking action to increase student understanding of sustainability.