By Beatrix Berry
Entering the realm of high school, with tall 12th graders, looming assignments, and the occasional beard, can be intimidating for many. It can feel especially daunting to a student who is less vocal in a room full of new faces. Despite entering the Marin School of Environmental Leadership (MarinSEL) feeling more quiet than her classmates, Harita Kalvai, a 10th grader in MarinSEL, has risen to the occasion to lead her peers and organize local youth activism for a cause bigger than herself.
When Harita started high school at MarinSEL two years ago, she found it difficult to stick up for herself and share her opinions. Despite her initial shyness, Harita has grown to be a vocal environmental changemaker through a number of leadership opportunities she found through MarinSEL.
Harita with MarinSEL classmates
In a recent project for one of her MarinSEL classes, Harita and her teammates worked closely with Marin Transit to create stickers for public buses that depict COVID-safe behavior while on the bus. In this project, she took a leadership role and demonstrated her communication skills with industry professionals and community partners who are experts in their field.
Harita is also passionate about environmental and racial justice. She became involved in spreading awareness of the permeating nature of systemic racism through a student group called SLAM! (Student Leaders’ Antiracist Movement). “SLAM! is important because it is a way for students to be educated on lesser-known areas of oppression, such as environmental justice and intersectional activism,” shared Harita.
Not only has Harita shown great improvement in her communication with professionals and the larger community, but she has also taken an impressive role in engaging her peers in youth climate action. Harita recently organized and facilitated a virtual climate poetry event with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) called Words to Live By - Youth Poets on Climate Change, and most recently she has been helping to grow a youth activism and engagement group with CCL.
Although she has only been in MarinSEL for two years, Harita has grown into a strong environmental advocate and is very involved in the local climate community. Despite the past year, she has continued to make an impact, taking advantage of virtual communication and events. Harita says that she has, “always been passionate about the environment but without MSEL I wouldn't have gotten the chance to partake in many of these things. And through the program, I've also gotten to know all my classmates so well. Their work inspires me to do big things.”
During the pandemic, it has been inspiring to see students engaging in activism, climate action projects, and supporting their peers to do the same. Despite the challenging year that they have had, young people are still fighting for the planet and making change.
The SEI Team
Environmental education and workforce development experts share stories from the field