When my friends and I started the Environmental Club at San Pasqual High School, I wasn’t sure how strong the program would be. In the past, there has been minimal support for environmental awareness within our extracurriculars and there was little student involvement as well. Melissa Montejo, along with myself, Ariana Noordyk, Stephanie Monodragon, and Helen Lin decided to change this.
Before starting the club, a handful of students and I had been volunteering with the Nature Collective at different events they hosted. It’s a nonprofit organization that focuses on the conservation and preservation of the ecosystems in southern California, along with the education of students about these spaces. Many of the events are small tours that educate elementary students and their families on the different ecosystems in our area. Their goal is to inform the community of the way our ecosystems work, why they’re valuable, and why they should be protected. However, it wasn’t an organization that students were familiar with. By creating the environmental club, we hoped to make a space capable of organizing and raising awareness for the Nature Collective’s different events.
Our club members were able to be exposed to the environmental issues that the Collective addresses on a more local level. This is why high school involvement is so necessary. Bringing forth a simple way of learning more while volunteering for the community is important. Students are able to connect the environmental issues they see on the news with issues the community faces. Even if people were only going for community service hours, it still allowed them to engage with younger students as they were taken through the immersive educational tours. A usual ‘GOIN’ or Going Out Into Nature trip takes a group of students (and their guardians) through a hiking trail and teaches them about the different flora and fauna.
Our club also hosted weekly cleanups at Kit Carson, a local park. This was meant to be an opportunity for students to get more volunteering hours in while directly helping out the Escondido community by creating a cleaner space for all to enjoy. As we continued to do these cleanups, we noticed the park slowly becoming less polluted. Though we still have a long way to go, it was still a small victory seeing less trash in the park overall. It truly helped connect us to a more visible and obvious environmental issue in our own backyard.
This club was not only very valuable to me and the other officers but the Nature Collective as well. Soon after the club was started Elayna Flanders, a volunteer director of the Collective, told us that there has been a great increase in students volunteering with the Collective and they were no longer understaffed at the events they hosted. We’ve been fairly successful at getting new volunteers for events. However, what I think is more valuable is the fact that we’ve been able to get students who are truly passionate about the club and the environment. Helping students find a passion for these issues is another reason why these types of clubs matter so much. Without these opportunities though the club, students will not be able to explore this possible career path and spread awareness of environmental issues. They can also become more aware of the unique problems in our local ecosystems.
As of now, I believe that San Pasqual is the only high school in the district with an active Environmental Club. I feel that more schools should have a strong environmental club because of the important awareness it could foster. Though I agree that many of these issues we face are too complicated to be solved on a high school level, there needs to be a proactive attitude taken among students. It’s all too easy to fall into the “There’s nothing we can do” mindset. Taking part in these types of clubs can give high school students the chance to change that. Especially now that climate change has become an increasingly serious issue that our generation needs to combat in the coming decades.
Looking back, I can clearly see the amount of change we were able to instigate within our community. Even now, the club is still growing and expanding. I recently learned that we’ve been able to branch out to local middle schools. I hope that in the future, our club will be able to partner with the other high schools to continue this trend of positive growth.
Creating more spaces like these can successfully foster greater awareness for the education of environmental issues that we face and bring our community together in the process. I feel that is evident in our club. We’ve been able to create a group of students who are not only passionate about the environment but more passionate about their community as well.
Eveny Mendoza is a recent graduate of San Pasqual High School and a founder of the Environmental Club at SPHS. She is currently attending Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where she will be majoring in Environmental Studies and possibly minoring in Economics. She tells The Times-Advocate: “I graduated from San Pasqual High School this past June and I was a mostly A/B student. I took a few APs in my senior year, including AP Econ, AP Calculus, AP Literature. I was in the marching band and concert band as well.”