Louisiana Students Organize Educational Climate Retreat for Peers
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Louisiana Students Organize Educational Climate Retreat for Peers

The Climate Leaders Fellowship guides high school students in researching climate change effects within their own communities and finding solutions they can implement locally. Students partner with local organizations to launch their projects and collaborate with other students to achieve their goals.

The fellowship is offered as a collaboration between the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

Read about Karya’s impactful experience below!

Karya Başaraner
Benjamin Franklin High School
New Orleans, Louisiana

My name is Karya Başaraner, a rising senior at Benjamin Franklin High School in the vibrant city of New Orleans. When I am not sailing, you can find me reading a book, coding robots, and advocating for our environment. Fluent in my native languages of Turkish, English, and French, I am currently delving into Italian. Life is never dull with my younger brother, my dog that never seems to run out of energy, and my two mischievous cats who all add their unique charm to my life.

I participated in the Rustic Pathways x Stanford Climate Leaders Fellowship during the spring ‘23 program because of my wish to address the pressing lack of education and the abundance of misinformation surrounding climate change, global warming and pollution. This was a concerning problem I observed not only in my home country of Turkey but also at my school in the US. People were simply unaware of the gravity of the threat we are facing and I knew that the only way to change that was to take action and make sure that we spread the knowledge we have.

For my project with the Climate Leaders Fellowship, I teamed up with other participants, namely Akshita Sridhar and Audrey Orzech. We are all part of an environmental non-profit called Krewe du Cypress so we worked seamlessly.

We organized a field trip to the stunning Fontainebleau State Park and over the course of two days, we had over 80 students in a retreat aimed at educating people on critical climate-related topics. To demonstrate our commitment to sustainability, we composted all excess food, leaving no trace behind.

Our roster of amazing guest speakers made this two-day excursion even more enjoyable. Our first guest speaker from the environmental non-profit called LEAN spoke of water and air pollution while shedding light on climate injustice in the poverty-stricken regions of Louisiana, drawing from her own experiences.

Dr Foster Martinez, a professor at the University of New Orleans talked about the significance of trees, particularly in the safeguarding of a city so connected to its coastal identity, like New Orleans. After her presentation, we rolled up our sleeves and planted trees, determined to have a positive impact on the park.

Additionally, an experienced guide from the Louisiana Outdoor School led us on guided nature hikes, highlighting the intricate collaboration between each component of an ecosystem. By the end of our retreat, we witnessed a newfound willingness among the participants to engage in tough conversations about climate change. The positive impact they shared highlighted just how big of an impact our project had.

Being a part of the Climate Leaders Fellowship was an incredible catalyst for personal growth in terms of my organizational skills because of the amount of support I had from Rustic Pathways. Working together with like-minded students from all over the world was nothing short of inspiring.

Undoubtedly, this fellowship has further kindled my dedication to advocating for our environment. The memories I made during this program left their mark on me and I can’t wait for all the opportunities that lie ahead for me to make a meaningful impact on our world!


About the Author

Kayla Anzalone

Kayla joined Rustic Pathways in 2020 as the Director of Special Projects. She has nearly a decade of experience in communications and marketing. At Rustic Pathways, Kayla is dedicated to helping high school students discover their passion for exploring the world through summer travel programs. She drives impactful initiatives to empower students through meaningful travel experiences worldwide. Based in San Jose, California, Kayla loves the outdoors, live music and travel.