In 2008, SFS gave me an education that changed my life. My experience in Tanzania studying wildlife management and community conservation transformed how I interact with the world, and how I see myself. It worked as a catalyst in my mind. When I first arrived in Tanzania, I was absolutely overwhelmed by the complexity, severity, and magnitude of the environmental challenges in the region. When I left Tanzania, I felt just as overwhelmed. I wondered how, or if, I would ever make a difference.
I graduated from college and waited. I waited for someone else to do it—to address the issues in East Africa, to educate children in the United States, to take action in general. I was resigned to feeling like I couldn’t make a difference. I was walking around telling myself that I wasn’t the one. I was too young and too inexperienced; too small to make an impact. Finally, I tired of this limbo and asked myself, “If not me, than who?”. I chose to substitute the new words, “I am the one” in place of the old.
I looked around at what was possible in my own local community of Tucson, AZ. I currently tutor youth and I‘m passionate about youth development. What I saw lacking in my own community of youth was a cohesive understanding of what “green” means, what “sustainability” means, and what’s really happening to the planet. Kids are brilliant and informed. What was lacking was a sense of clarity, and the belief that they could make a difference now, not just when they “grow-up”. From that, I designed a one-day event in which youth ages 9-14 were invited to learn about environmental leadership. The event was called “I Am The World” and was held at the University of Arizona on February 12, 2012.
At the event, local environmental leaders presented to the students, played resource management games with them, and listened to their ideas. In addition, the event was a fundraiser for Kilimanjaro Kids, an environmental education program for youth in Kenya founded by former SFS employee Erica Garoutte. I teamed up with Erica for this event and we have plans for continued collaboration in the future.
A question I personally posed to students during the February event was, “What will you do with the education you have been given?” This is aquestion I also ask myself. The event in February was a beginning and it has opened doors I didn’t know were there. I had to start somewhere; this is where I chose to start.