Rustic Spirit Spotlights: Climate Leader Fellows
All Articles

Rustic Spirit Spotlights: Climate Leader Fellows

The Climate Leaders Fellowship program has wrapped up after two months of impact work. The environmental program led students in researching the effects of climate change in their own communities and finding ways to combat the problem locally.

The students worked hard to implement plans that directly benefited their communities.

First, they identified a local need that was brought on or intensified by climate change. Some examples include how environmental problems affect people’s health, or how extreme weather events may put lower-income residents in a situation without food and clothing.

They then formed partnerships with local organizations that could benefit from a donation drive to support those in need. Students engaged with other young climate fellow students from around the world to compare ideas and assist in overcoming obstacles.

Next, each student or team launched their donation drive. Read on to learn more about their efforts and how these young changemakers made incredible impacts!

Julia Masuda
Horizon Japan International School
Yokohama, Japan

Julia took on a project based in her local school community with a team. In collaboration with the fellowship program and their school’s marine club, the team created a week-long fundraiser event to collect monetary donations and raise awareness for those disportionately affected by natural disasters and climate change. They increased climate literacy through workshops, and promoted understanding and curiosity about climate changes through marine-themed buzzer quizzes and poster games.

Through this experience, Julia learned the way you present things matters. Their audience was students for the event and at first it was hard to get their attention and support. Through cohort meetings, the team got recommendations to move the focus to encourage students to participate. The team ended up making the whole week into a game event where students could collect points and this led to many successful donations.

In her free time, Julia loves to play tennis. She is very involved with school committees and clubs operations and is always trying to incorporate new things. Julia plans to major in business in college and specifically is interested in entrepreneurship. She aspires to revolutionize English acquisition in Japan.

Impact advice: Find a good support system. Our team had Rustic Pathways to support our whole project and friends to give constructive feedback. You can rely on someone and they can rely on you, and that reliance made our whole event possible. With support, you can increase the possibility of your idea translating into a project or something positive.

Julienne Adams
Ashland High School
Oregon, United States

Julienne set out to help people in her community who lost all their belongings and became unhoused due to devastating wildfires in southern Oregon. She collected all kinds of camping gear to help these families obtain needed basic supplies. Julienne partnered with the local fire department where she dropped off an entire truck bed full of donations.

Through the success of this initiative, Julienne learned that even if you think what you’re doing is small and you feel like you’re not going to make a difference, persevere. She recommends taking a few hours out of your schedule and organizing a project. It may seem like a big undertaking at first, but it won’t seem hard looking back on it. When you put in a little effort, you get more support than you think is possible.

Julienne is passionate about climate change and helping people. She enjoyed the climate fellowship environment with like-minded teens who also want to make a difference. Julienne loves dance and has been a dancer her whole life. She wants to pursue pre-med in college and aspires to be a surgeon or doctor.

Impact advice: Keep working hard. Keep doing good and you will make a positive difference. It doesn’t matter if you think what you’re doing is too small, nothing is too small. Keep pushing!

More from Julienne here:


Pichamon Pongnonthachai
International Community School
Bangkok, Thailand

Climate change has exacerbated the storms and monsoons that annually hit Thailand, so ​​Pichamon focused on relieving some of the immediate struggles local communities have during monsoon season, which the pandemic have also intensified. Pichamon collected monetary donations that a local non-profit used to purchase food for low-income families. She was overjoyed to see the smiles of the children and elderly as they received the goods.

In completing her project, Pichamon learned that most heartfelt actions may not necessarily come from headline news. They come from the simple need to help the people around us feel happy and safe. During the fellowship program, Pichamon’s favorite part was listening to how other projects went. Everyone started on the same climate change prompt and she found it fascinating to see how each student did their projects differently for their communities.

In college, Pichamon plans to major in medicine. She finds the brain fascinating and aspires to be a pediatric neurologist. Pichamon enjoys playing the horn, reading, writing books and learning new things.

Impact advice: Just go for it. The hardest part is to take the first step and then after that, something will happen. As long as you have a purpose and you know what you’re doing, go for it.

Hear more from Pichamon:


Mae Lombardi
San Dieguito Academy
California, United States

Mae decided to work with a local organization that sends disaster relief supplies to countries who are dealing with extreme weather events or recycle the donations into new supply materials. Using the Nextdoor app, Mae shared information to her community on where to drop off clothing and blankets. She put a bin for donations in her driveway and successfully collected a large amount of supplies. As president of the climate club at her school, she also spread the word about the drive to her peers.

In the fellowship Mae gained leadership skills and learned to work collaboratively. She now has more awareness of how much she can do in her community. Mae found that positive impact work is not that hard and she can continue to make a difference.

Mae is a musician and plays the bass and acoustic guitar. She loves going to the beach and enjoys surfing and skating. Mae also loves to write, especially poetry, and uses her writing skills for advocacy work. She is very interested in STEAM technology and plans to get a degree in environmental sciences or biomedical engineering. Mae aspires to create new technologies that are eco-safe and eco-friendly for the environment.

Impact advice: Stop holding yourself back. You’re going to make mistakes, but if you are trying to make an impact, you will eventually. When you get to the point where you make your goal happen, it will feel very good.

Nominate a Student

Do you know a student doing valuable work that deserves to be recognized? Nominate them here! Are you making an impact? Tell us about your work here.

Make Change

Interested in creating change in your community? Check out our guide and learn how to make an impact as a student.

At Rustic Pathways, our goal is to make positive contributions to the communities we visit through responsible travel operations and community service projects that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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.