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Pacifica students tackle climate change lesson with leadership program, community garden

Peninsula students tackle climate change lesson with community garden
Peninsula students tackle climate change lesson with community garden 02:37

Bay Area high school students are taking leadership roles in addressing climate change and cultivating a better future, thanks to a one-of-a-kind program in California.  

Planting the seeds of change often begins with a good idea. At Terra Nova High School in Pacifica, that idea is beginning to sprout in a previously unused plot of land behind the campus where rows of garlic, carrots, peas, tomatoes, lettuce and fresh herbs are growing.

The new vegetable garden, along with a recycling project, is thanks to three Terra Nova students: senior Dane Potter, junior Anna Zavodnik, and sophomore Ava Litz. They're members of the Youth Climate Ambassadors Leadership Program, with a goal to ensure younger generations have the skills and knowledge to effectively tackle the impacts of climate change.

"I definitely am concerned about our planet, and it has been a great source of anxiety for me," explained Zavodni. "But after this program it kind of allowed me to be empowered to make change and to promote more sustainable habits."

The program is a joint effort between San Mateo County's Sustainability Department and Office of Education. To date, 273 students from dozens of local schools have participated in the highly selective seven-month program. Over the course of the program, students learn about climate science, leadership skills, and how to design and implement a community project.

"I was, like, whoa, that sounds really cool." said Litz. "I didn't know there were opportunities for people my age to take such a big step and make a community impact."

At Terra Nova, the new garden will provide fresh vegetables to the school's cafeteria. At the same time, by cultivating a healthy soil the students aim to trap climate-warming carbon dioxide in the ground.

"Soil can be seen as a carbon sink and that can help mitigate CO2 that's in the atmosphere and can help reduce the drastic effects of global warming over a long period of time," explained Litz.

"Sustainable agriculture is huge in combating climate change, improving the health of our local environment," added Potter.

A recent Pew Research center survey, 43% of U.S. adults believe climate change is causing a great deal of harm to our lives. Among young adults, 78% believe the negative impacts of our warming climate is only going to get worse.  

These high school students are encouraging and inspiring those who may feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem.

"I think it's important that you really try to make an effort," said Zavodnik, noting how some people might be unmotivated. "It feels pointless, when you're along in the effort but every little thing you can do can help."

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