Rustic Spirit Spotlights x Climate Leaders Fellowship: Student Impact Goes Coast to Coast in the USA
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Rustic Spirit Spotlights x Climate Leaders Fellowship: Student Impact Goes Coast to Coast in the USA

The third cycle of the Climate Leaders Fellowship program has recently concluded after two months of remarkable work by hundreds of students. Through this environmental stewardship program, high school students had the opportunity to analyze the consequences of climate change in their local areas and devise methods to address the issue.

After recognizing a local requirement that was caused or exacerbated by climate change, students collaborated with local organizations that could benefit from a donation drive to aid those in need.

The online program is offered in a collaboration between the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

Read on to learn about Ruby and Elyse’s efforts in California and New York!

Ruby Santamaria
Age 15
Los Angeles, California

Ruby organized a reusable water bottle drive for a local homeless shelter as her project. She specifically chose this item as she felt it covered many climate change related issues. Homeless people are generally at a higher risk for climate-induced sickness like heatstroke, so staying hydrated is important. But since reusable water bottles are expensive, not everybody has access to this luxury. Additionally, plastic water bottles continue to wreck the environment.

After setting up donation boxes at her school, Ruby got approval for students to receive extra credit for donating. This motivated many of her peers and her community donated 60 pounds of reusable water bottles to the Los Angeles Mission.

“Participating allowed me to feel that I could make a difference in a community as large as Los Angeles,” says Ruby. “Because our city is especially affected by climate change due to its large and unsustainable nature, it was really empowering to know that I was able to organize a drive on such a large scale. I’m proud of how much we were able to donate and I’m really happy with the outcome.”

When thinking about her future, Ruby may major in either biology with the ambition of entering the medical field, or criminology and political science with the goal of pursuing a career in law. Ruby enjoys running on her school’s cross country and track teams, and also loves spending time in nature, especially with her dog!

Ruby says you have to be willing to take risks to make an impact–she was turned down by nine shelters before she found one that needed the donations and was willing to partner with her as an individual. Additionally, she was scared to bring her ideas to the school administration, but ultimately speaking out about the concept allowed Ruby’s drive to be a great success.

Elyse Lebrun
Age 15
Millbrook School
Bedford Hills, New York

For her fellowship project, Elyse created over 50 care kits for homeless individuals. She made the decision to address this issue after witnessing the heartbreaking sight of struggling people on the New York city streets during the winter.

With extreme temperatures this year, each pack contained gloves, socks, hand warmers, and hygiene products like toothbrushes, shampoo, conditioner and soap to keep people healthy and warm. Elyse brought everything to a local shelter where they were thankful for the donations.

Elyse is very interested in science and in the future she would be happy pursuing studies like  biotechnology, environmental biochemistry, geology, genetics, computer science, robotics, and mining and mineral engineering. For fun, Elyse enjoys anything science-related, reading, farming, summer service trips, traveling, learning new languages, hiking, music, playing the guitar, and collecting instruments.

Elyse advises others pursuing a project to make a planner with your deadlines to ensure you reach provided deadlines.

Our next fellowship round launches soon.  For more information and to sign up, please visit the Climate Leaders Fellowship program page.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone