This post was inspired by a conversation with our current 7th grade student, Sofia Ortiz, who told us about her family culture and the support that gives her the strength to undertake projects for the benefit of her community.
As teachers or family members, we hope to see adolescent girls interact with the world in a positive manner, finding community that elevates them, that supports their inspirations and that anchors them in positive action during this formative age. Twelve and thirteen year old girls are on the cusp of finding their new selves, experimenting with growing their own voices, their own interests, applying themselves to the world – such a wonderful and delicate time in their lives.
When talking with Sofia, who, with her younger sister Lucia, was recently featured in the HBO series on the environment, “Saving My Tomorrow”, I can see how the sisters’ positive community work is supported and inspired by their circles of friends, peers, adults and family members.
When still in elementary school, Sofia and Lucia became involved with the Go Green Club, a student run organization at Santa Fe’s Wood Gormley School. The club comes up with green projects and initiatives, which benefit the local community or the larger bio-region. For Sofia, the club provided an opportunity to do something very important– and that is to be an active voice of positive change in her community.
Sofia mentioned a family trip to California, when she was old enough to see the smog over Los Angeles in a whole new way, to become aware of being aware. “I just asked myself, is this the way the world has to be? It was so dirty, so dark.”
Out of that question, and with the support of the Go Green Club community of peers, she was able to apply her growing sense of need for action and direct it to make things better in her world.
Sofia’s other source of support is her family. “Parents help, they back you up”, says Sofia. “They encourage us to take steps, however simple, to make things better. Our family life is supportive of being green. We avoid waste and keep things simple. We don’t use plastic bottles, or plastic bags. We see what makes sense, what saves life on this planet.”
Sofia’s next dream is to spearhead a similar Go Green Club at her high school. “Our previous project was a success. We approached the City Council of Santa Fe with an initiative to ban distribution of plastic bags in grocery stores – and we got the resolution passed! It was enacted in 2014, eliminating some of the plastic waste from entering the landfills.”
Sofia and her sister are still involved with the Go Green Club, even though Sofia has left Wood Gormley and now attends the Santa Fe Girls’ School.
She has her eyes on several projects that are “low hanging fruit” – projects that are relatively simple, large in scope, are based on common sense and lead to the biggest change with the least effort.
Sofia, her sister Lucia, their family members, the Go Green Club peers and their supporters approached the City Hall for a hearing on the proposed 10 cent tax on paper grocery bags.
“People can be encouraged to bring their own reusable bags to the stores”, says Sofia – “this is how most of the world functions, reusing things, why not introduce some good new habits here, in our community?”
And then, after this undertaking, she hopes to go after the plastic water bottles. She has her statistics (Out of the 50 billion bottles of water being bought each year, 80% end up in a landfill, even though recycling programs exist. 17 million barrels of oil are used in producing bottled water each year. Bottled water costs 1,000 times more than tap water.). It is simple common sense, to use tap water in combination with a reusable water bottle, and she speaks about it with a grace and commitment that come from a place of knowing her own values, of being supported in her activism, and from loving her world.
It is very empowering to realize that the best support we can give to our adolescent daughters and sons is that of closely knit communities that are centered on supportive school, peer and family life. Adolescents have their hands, hearts and minds ready for action and directing them towards a positive effort is the most important, most decisive step that can be taken. Whether it is the environment or acting in the world with conviction and care, supporting young hearts is a way to direct their formidable energy and focus into positive action.