Two Bay Area high school girls, one from Antioch and the other from Fremont, were assigned to solve a climate change dilemma. Their goal was to research climate change effects in their communities and launch a donation drive to benefit a local organization. For Deer Valley High School junior Hannah Johnson, climate change is an important issue that she hopes to make a positive impact on.
“During climate change, you have to deal with both extremes of cold and hot temperatures,” Johnson said. “The homeless need safety from the pavement.”
The girls met through an online program in collaboration with the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation. They researched climate change effects in their communities and launched donation drives to benefit local homeless organizations. The students formed partnerships, compared ideas and overcame obstacles together.
Hsu said she “worried that as climate change becomes more severe, the homeless are put in a difficult situation as they must face extreme weather without adequate shelter and protection.”
The partners each set up different methods of collecting shoes. Hsu asked neighbors and posted fliers at school for donations.
“I set up multiple donation bins around my community, including my school, where I fostered involvement for the drive through my California Scholarship Federation club, and I also set up bins at my local karate dojo and the Antioch Community Center,” Johnson said.
Johnson said that everyone was very welcoming to the idea and that was the only way she was able to have such a successful drive. She collected 115 pairs of shoes by the end. Together the girls gathered 155 in the time allotted for the project to be completed.
The only hitch in the program that Johnson found was that giving away the shoes wasn’t as easy as she had first anticipated. There aren’t a lot of programs in East Contra Cosat County to donate the shoes to, but those that were available wouldn’t take the collection she had received because although the shoes were clean and in good shape, they were used.
“I eventually found a more permanent housing effort willing to take the shoes in Concord,” she said.
When not working on climate change programs, Johnson is her school’s volunteer coordinator for the California Scholarship Federation. She also co-founded She Speaks Power, a female empowerment club open to anyone at the school. The club works to foster inclusivion and friendships. She said they offer study sessions and activities. She also enjoys track and field and cross-country.
Johnson missed the deadline to join a new fellowship program through the Rustic Pathways project. Still she would definitely encourage others to become involved in the program, which is set up for students ages 14 to 18 interested in solutions to climate change and environmental sustainability.
“My advice would be that students who want to make an impact need to step out of their comfort zone and realize how much of a positive effect they can have,” she said. “It’s easy to get caught up in what-ifs and a mindset that tells you a positive impact must be huge, but in reality the smallest acts can sometimes mean the most, and you have to start somewhere. Give yourself the opportunity to learn how much of a difference you can make and go from there.”
For more information on the Climate Leaders Fellowship, visit rusticpathways.com/young-climate-leaders-fellowship online.
Roni Gehlke can be reached at [email protected]
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