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Cleaning Up Schools, Taking Care of Our Space

Sam Holtz, a 12-year old who runs various recycling and clean energy events at his school, speaks about his enthusiasm for ecology and encouraging other kids to make a difference on the environment.

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.

I applied to be on Grades of Green’s Kids’ Advisory Board because they are working to inspire kids to be green and I wanted to be a part of it. They nominated me for the Champions of Change award because of the work I have done at my school, American Martyrs. I was so excited when they called and told me I had been named a “Champion of Change.”

As a Champion of Change, on July 8th I was part of a video conference from the White House situation room with kids from all over the country who have implemented environmental changes just like I have.  Seeing and hearing all the great activities they have organized (including mine) showed me that us kids really can make a difference. After the videoconference I was honored and learned some new activities which I will try to put in place at my school. 

I became involved in ecology because I am worried about what is happening to our planet. I believe we all have a responsibility to take care of our space. It is not up to our parents, or others to pick up after us. I wanted to get others to help me clean up our school so I ran for the position of safety and ecology and I won. After being elected I began making our school green. The first activity I organized was a drive to recycle gently used school supplies. I thought of this idea because I know at the end of the school year everyone just throws their old school supplies away. Filling my garage with pens, pencils, crayons, old notebooks, etc. I sorted it with some help from my friends and we gave the supplies to a less fortunate school in Watts. The smiles on their faces made it all worthwhile and we were keeping it out of the landfill. 

After summer ended I started “walk to school” competitions. I would see how many kids walked to school in each class and the class with the highest percentage won a Popsicle party. Finally, I worked with an organization called “Soles4Souls.” They collect old shoes and give them to people who need them in Africa. During the promotion of our annual 5K run I asked all the kids and parents to bring in an old pair of shoes. Again we collected so many shoes it filled our friends entire garage! Now each year they plan to conduct the Sole4Souls drive.

My experience on this video chat was great. I learned new ideas and met great kids. I am so amazed at how many kids everywhere are making a difference. I liked how we all interacted and asked questions and got to know each other. I know that others gave me great ideas (like growing a garden for composting and encouraging kids to use lunch boxes instead of paper bags). I hope that I gave them some great ideas too. But the biggest thing I learned from this experience is that everyone, even kids, can make a difference in the world if we just put our mind to it. I am honored to be a Champion of Change!

Sam Holtz is a twelve-year old who is passionate about protecting the environment. He and his mom run a recycle shoe drive called "Soles 4 Souls" to collect used shoes that could be reused or turned into playground rubber.