Graphic from Sam Huang's sustainability campaign
When I met Sam Huang, a senior at Rosemead High School in Rosemead, CA, their passion for encouraging climate action shone through immediately. Though just a few days from graduation, Sam was thinking about how to support their garden club with summer volunteer work before heading off to college to study education. Sam and I spoke soon after they were announced as the Southern California winner of SEI's Earth Day Challenge for their social media campaign urging their school community to improve their local and global environments through small changes to their daily habits.
Since joining their school’s garden club, the Best of Thymes Garden, almost four years ago, Sam has learned not just how to grow fruits and vegetables, but also how to build a sustainable community. The club held discussions about “things that are happening around the world and things we can do to create a healthy planet,” Sam explained. Combined with lessons from their AP Environmental Science class, the garden club sparked Sam's passion for sustainability.
When they heard about SEI’s Earth Day Challenge from their club advisor, Sam was also working as Digital Media Coordinator for their school’s Associated Student Body, a student group that aims to represent and communicate with all of the students in the school. They saw a perfect opportunity to, in their words, “use my platform to educate the students and the teachers” in their school.
After building their knowledge using SEI’s challenge resources, Sam created an Instagram post sharing about human impacts on the planet and what can be done about them. “I wanted to include ways that people can take action,” said Sam. “So that not only was I educating people, but I was encouraging action being taken.” In fact, part of what set Sam’s campaign apart was their focus on communicating what community members can do in an accessible and aesthetically pleasing way, resulting in an empowering and hopeful message about the promise of climate action.
Social media post reached over 2,000 people
Sam’s post reached over 2,000 people when they shared their campaign materials in April, and that reach has only grown. "In person, people talked to me about the campaign and [were] like, ‘Oh, I saw your post. I really enjoyed the information that you put on it and ways that I can take action,’” Sam said. Several other students reposted to their Instagram Stories to spread the message further.
Although Sam knew a lot about the environment before participating in The Earth Day Challenge, they noted a few surprises from the curriculum. Part 2 of the challenge, which guides students to use California EPA’s CalEnviroScreen tool to explore data on pollutants, demographics, and more to improve their understanding of local environmental justice issues. Part 2, Sam explained, helped them “figure out what the impact that, let's say, transportation had on my community and how it affected the community.”
After graduating this spring, Sam plans to keep encouraging sustainability action as an educator, with the goal of teaching elementary school. They say of these future environmental leaders, “I want to hopefully let them start early, and teach them about the environment and what things they can do to help the world even though they're small.”
Many honorable mention campaigns also came from Rosemead High School. Science teacher Lan Nguyen had 35 students work in teams to develop campaigns that raised awareness about a range of environmental issues. “There were many lessons here including meeting deadlines, collaborative work and engaging in new topics,” said Ms. Nguyen. “From this experience I am inspired to build more opportunities for students to have a better understanding of the scientific method and to introduce them to real-life scenarios whenever possible throughout the course.”
This spring, SEI was able to expand our challenge to Southern California thanks to generous support from Southern California Edison. SCE’s support gave our staff the chance to build sustainability leaders like Sam and allowed us to provide Rosemead High School with a $1,000 prize to continue encouraging environmental action in their community.
This challenge was funded by a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and Edison International®
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