An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Olivia S. '20

Pictured: Olivia, right, with Seattle Youth Climate Strike organizers.

On March 15, I participated in the Seattle Youth Climate Strike. On this day, students around the world skipped school and raised their voices to increase awareness of and demand action on climate change. In Seattle, over 2,500 people participated. Students and leaders from government and environmental organizations stepped onto the stage to motivate, educate, and inspire future changemakers. I had the privilege of being one of the event’s speakers, and I used my time to talk about how human activity is devastating our oceans. I spoke about greenhouse gasses, sea ice melting, and coral reef bleaching and acidification. I stressed the importance of engaging with both local and federal governments to create legislative change. Most of all, I highlighted that youth are driving change.

I chose to speak at the Seattle Youth Climate Strike because I am very passionate about climate change. I spend significant amounts of time volunteering to protect our oceans and spreading awareness about marine conservation. It is important for me to speak about climate change because it causes great harm to our oceans. Just a few of the current threats facing our oceans include ocean warming, bycatch, food chain disruption, pollution, habitat destruction, and ocean acidification. My love for the ocean and my work to fight against these threats pushes me to stand up and speak.

In order to graduate from Lakeside, each student needs to complete 80 hours of community service. This requirement reflects the value that Lakeside places on community engagement. For some students, this service requirement can feel like more of a burden than an opportunity. In my experience, volunteering has been an opportunity to pursue a passion and learn to be an effective advocate for the things that I care about. It has brought me significant personal joy. As a self-described youth activist, I choose to spend a lot of my time volunteering in order to educate the public about marine conservation. Volunteering has enabled me to pursue my passion among peers that share my love for the ocean.

I spend a significant amount of my time outside of school volunteering for water-related organizations. This work has allowed me to pursue topics that light me up and inspire me to continue working to create change. I volunteer at the Seattle Aquarium as a Youth Ocean Advocate, educating visitors about species endemic to the Pacific Northwest, marine conservation, and issues affecting our oceans. I also serve as a One Ocean global ambassador, using social media to educate people about marine conservation and, specifically, shark conservation. Finally, I am a youth board member for Water1st International. For this organization, I help to raise awareness about the global water crisis and fundraise for water projects that help bring water systems to communities in developing countries. Throughout my life, my favorite place in the world has always been the ocean. Beginning with walks through tide pools and across beaches as a toddler, my love for the ocean and protecting it has carried throughout my childhood and into my teenage years. Coincidentally, all of the extracurricular activities I engage in, including rowing and swimming, share the theme of water. My hope is that my volunteer work will help protect the things I love.

One of my inspirations for my personal activism is Greta Thunberg. Greta, a sixteen-year-old Swedish student, has gained worldwide attention for initiating the School Strike for Climate movement, and has received numerous accolades, including multiple nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her actions have been recognized across the globe, and resulted in the largest School Strike for Climate ever on March 15. It involved 1.4 million student and included 2,052 events in 123 countries on all continents, including Antarctica. Her actions have made it clear to the world that a movement to fight climate change and secure a healthier planet begins with youth.

The recent movement of youth voices rising on issues such as abortion, healthcare access, gun violence, and climate change is being noticed around the world. Young people are speaking with urgency about critical issues now, refusing to be silenced. We cannot wait to speak. Humans need to pull a lot of carbon out of the atmosphere and a lot of plastic out the oceans. If we don’t start to clean up our act, quite literally, our inability to act beyond what is efficient will come back to haunt us. My participation in the climate strike and my volunteering has shown me that I can make a difference. After testifying in support of a plastic bag ban in front of a House of Representatives committee, I received letters in the mail thanking me for speaking up on behalf of the planet. It made me proud and motivated to continue fighting on behalf of our oceans, the planet, and their future inhabitants.