Virginia Teen Wins Presidential Service Award and Fights Climate Change With Two Amazing Fellowship Projects
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Virginia Teen Wins Presidential Service Award and Fights Climate Change With Two Amazing Fellowship Projects

Marin participated in two cycles of the Climate Leaders Fellowship, and was even a student facilitator that led bi-monthly meetings!

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

Read all about Marin’s experiences during the Fellowship below.

My name is Marin Peale, I am 16 years old and a junior at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia. I enjoy spending time with friends, traveling, and photography; all of which have been impacted in different ways by global warming.

Whether it be plastic-strewn beaches in Mozambique, bleached coral in the Virgin Islands, decreasing populations of endangered species in Costa Rica and Belize, or the destruction of Posidonia seagrasses (the largest CO2 filter in the world) in the Balearic Islands, witnessing firsthand the deterioration of ecosystems prompted my journey into environmentalism. I have dedicated my time to combating single-use plastics and encouraging thoughtful consumption in my community.

During my time with the Stanford X Climate Leaders Fellowship, I have been able to facilitate two successful projects, as both a fellow and a student facilitator, which was a key factor in winning the Presidential Service Award for my volunteer efforts.

First Project: Compost for Schools

For the first cycle of my fellowship, I created a composting system within a local middle school, called The BioBin. My town had recently implemented a residential composting system, however, it was not well publicized, there was no real education around composting and it did not extend to the local schools, leading to the return of many residential composting bins.

Rather than creating a county-wide education program, I wanted to focus on educating our younger generations. By narrowing down my audience, I was able to personalize the experience for the students, enabling them to really learn about and understand the purpose and importance of composting. My hope was that many students would share that information at home and it would lead to broader adoption of the residential composting system.

I was fortunate enough to go to the composting site that we would be using for this project and learn about the process by which compost is created, which further highlighted the importance of this effort.

After a visit to the compost site, multiple meetings with the administration, and setting up an educational booth outside of the school’s lunchroom, Bio Bin was ready to be implemented. We had a total of five compost bins which were placed around the cafeteria and were picked up by local staff after the school day.

It was really inspiring to see the students and educators get excited about something that while simple, was making a positive impact in their community.

Second Project and Being a Student Facilitator

For my second cycle, I partnered with One Warm Coat, a sustainable coat drive organization, to facilitate my own drive. My drive was initially focused on my immediate neighborhood but was then expanded to my entire school district. In the month of December, we were able to collect 40+ coats and over $250 in donations.

As a student facilitator, I took a leadership role; by giving guidance to the other fellows and by leading our bimonthly meetings, I believe I was able to help my other fellows ensure their projects would be as successful as possible.

I wanted to establish a coat drive that served both as a humanitarian and environmental effort. Facilitating a used coat drive gives the opportunity to repurpose a coat that would be thrown out otherwise.

During my project, I did a lot of research on the importance of reusing clothes, with an emphasis on carbon emissions, learning that over 85% of all textiles end up in landfills, including clothing from resale and donation centers.

As an extension to my project, I got involved with a company called For Days, the first circular economy clothing brand (an innovative way to regenerate all clothing). The company is known for its Take Back Bag, where one is able to donate any old, stained, or damaged clothes to be repurposed into new clothes or household items in exchange for store credit.

I could not have achieved the results I did without the help of my peers and mentors within the Stanford x Climate Leaders Fellowship.  They helped me formulate solid plans while minimizing the obstacles I would encounter along the way. It was truly inspiring to witness my peers creating a positive impact throughout this program.

The next fellowship cycle launches in March, and the application deadline is February 5.  For more information and to sign up, please visit our Climate Leaders Fellowship program page.

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.