My name is Jaya and I am a Junior at the International School of the Americas in San Antonio, Texas. I was a part of the 2020–2021 San Antonio Youth Engagement Council for Climate Initiatives and over the summer I interned with EcoRise and the San Antonio Office of Sustainability. As a military child, I’ve been exposed to different environmental challenges with our frequent moves. While living in New York City, I started to understand the issues of pollution, crowding, and transportation. However, before joining this collective of young people last year, I felt powerless about environmental issues and did not see a path where I could make a difference. As a youth council member, I was connected to community leaders who were ready to listen and showed us the different paths to enact environmental change in our communities. We met leaders like the Mayor of San Antonio Ron Nirenberg who showed how the government can influence change. And Kristy Drutman, an environmental activist, taught us how to tell our environmental justice story to inspire action. I appreciate that they were ready to discuss the issues and consider our ideas.
The most meaningful part of my experience with EcoRise was connecting with like-minded high schoolers from throughout San Antonio. They have broadened my understanding of San Antonio’s climate, motivated me to work harder at home and at school, and serve as a reminder that there are others like me working diligently towards a more just and sustainable future. I am proud to have participated with my peers in many outreach opportunities, like speaking in a local news channel’s Facebook live panel for Earth Day. We also worked on community impact projects. My group worked with VIA Metropolitan Transit to retrofit a local bus stop with plants, which not only made the stop more aesthetically pleasing but also reduced the amount of carbon in the air. Working with a team and learning from gardeners and architects helped me understand that I can positively impact climate change from any career. During my summer internship, I collaborated with Mina Defee, the Climate Program Manager from the San Antonio Office of Sustainability, on outreach programs and collecting data on how locals feel about the climate crisis.
Throughout all these opportunities and experiences, I have gained confidence, become a communicative public speaker, gained invaluable connections with other students and community leaders, and developed a deeper understanding of climate activism. As I finish my high school years, I am excited to share my newfound knowledge with my classmates, connect with the new San Antonio youth council members, and continue finding ways to connect with local government and community leaders. After high school, I hope to major in urban planning and policy, and go on to make our cities more sustainable and eco-friendly.
My future has become more clear thanks to the experiences that EcoRise facilitated for me and my fellow council members. You’re invited to help bring these experiences to more youth across the U.S. by donating to EcoRise this winter! Any amount will be appreciated and thanks to a matching fund, your gift and your impact will be tripled when you donate by December 31st, 2021! If you are unable to make a financial contribution at this time, we welcome you to share our Facebook Fundraiser or share this letter with your networks.
Thank you for your consideration.
With deep appreciation,
San Antonio Youth Engagement Council for Climate Initiatives Alumna