Students Take Action Against Climate Change

Katinka+Lennemann+introducing+the+presentation+to+the+SUHSD+Board+of+Trustees+for+their+Climate+Change+Declaration+and+Resolution.

Claire Manuel

Katinka Lennemann introducing the presentation to the SUHSD Board of Trustees for their Climate Change Declaration and Resolution.

Claire Manuel, Arts and Entertainment Editor

A group of Student Stability Leaders from across the Sequoia Union High School District (SUHSD) presented to the SUHSD Board of Trustees in January. They introduced their Climate Emergency Declaration and Resolution and are still fighting hard to see it implemented.

These student stability leaders have come together to take climate action. Their Climate Emergency Declaration and Resolution focus on the ways that they hope to see the SUHSD take action against climate change and recognize it as an important issue. SUHSD’s website currently does not show any plans addressing climate change. These students have already gained support from nine organizations across the district and county. After having worked as Youth Climate Ambassadors, this group of students came together to bring this issue to their school district.

“Some of the things that we’ve been working on… is to petition this [SUHSD] Board of Trustees to declare a climate emergency, and also to pass stronger climate policies,” Carlmont senior Connie Gong said. “We’re doing this because a lot of local government[s], like city councils, and the state of California, and the nation, have declared a climate emergency, and we feel that our school district, in particular, is very behind on these changes. I think that it is important for them to show that they are in support of stronger climate action.”

Woodside junior Sara Typrin and her team are finding ways to present this issue to the board.

Katinka Lennemann introducing the Student Stability leaders. (Claire Manuel)

“With the board, we’ve been relying on two main reasons for why they should implement a sustainable policy,” Typrin stated. “First is that [it] comes with the urgency of climate change and how students in the area will be affected by it in the future… [and] that they align with other organizations’ values.”

This team of student stability leaders drafted their Climate Emergency plans for the SUHSD.

“We… want the district to declare a climate emergency, and this would just be a formal sort of message or statement from them,” Gong said. “We would also like them to establish a sustainability leadership model. [This] basically is composed of a group of students and adults who would advise the district on different climate policies and ultimately develop and implement a Climate Action Plan, which, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t exist right now.”

The first step in their plan is to evaluate the school’s existing systems.

“From this climate action plan, I think what we need to do first, before we develop any sort of plan in the first place, is to conduct a baseline assessment,” Gong explained, “which basically just checks how sustainable and environmentally friendly the facilities at our schools are, like how much energy they’re using and any places that we could reduce energy or source from cleaner energy sources.”

The SUHSD Board of Trustees is planning on making further decisions regarding the Climate Emergency Declaration and Resolution in their next couple of upcoming board meetings.

“Interim Superintendent [Crystal] Leach has been in touch with the leadership in the San Mateo Union High School District and has obtained the Climate Change Declaration and Resolution they have enacted,” Board President Alan Sarver stated. “She is in the process of adjusting to reflect the [SUHSD] and will discuss it with our board in this week’s board meeting [April 14]. We should be able to vote to enact something in an upcoming meeting.”

Kat Nguyen introducing the presentation their petition for their Climate Change Declaration and Resolution. (Claire Manuel)

To further show student support for their cause to the SUHSD Board of Trustees, the group of Student Stability leaders created a petition, which received over 750 signatures.

“One thing that [community members and students] could do is sign our change.org petition,” Gong said. “That’s a really easy way to show support for the projects that we’re doing. One important thing is to put pressure on the Board of Trustees at the district.”

After having watched society’s use of natural resources, Typrin felt the need to help create this initiative. 

“Climate change is a consequence of the last century’s colossal shift in how society employs fossil fuels, fertilizers, and other resources to meet a growing population’s demands,” Typrin explained. “This system has improved the quality of life for billions, and it would be something to celebrate if not for the single truth that we sift through more resources than the planet can handle. If the world doesn’t start taking action now, the economic burdens and death rate results would be far worse than COVID by 2100.”

Typrin and the group of student stability leaders are working to help the SUHSD be a part of the fight against climate change.

“The climate emergency team and I believe that the SUHSD needs to be a part of this change,” Typrin said. “Not only would this align with the value of making the future better for youth, but sustainability would bring other benefits like saving money, promoting educational equity, and more.”

Gong and the rest of her team have not stopped fighting, even after presenting to the Board of Trustees.

“The purpose of me doing this interview is just so that the [SUHSD] Board of Trustees is more aware of the fact that we haven’t forgotten about this issue since we presented to them in January,” Gong stated. “We recognize that [fighting] coronavirus and opening back schools is a big priority, but so is climate change.”