Commentary

A Youth Environmental Activist’s Reflection

A Youths perspective into the communities work facing the climate crisis.

Allies and Partners
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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards

In fall 2022, I joined an ACES team to promote clean-up events organized by others. By December, I decided to coordinate a school-based beach cleanup for Earth Day. In mid-February, with spring approaching, I initiated planning and focused on NHS students and compiled event requisites. Through Zoom meetings, we clarified logistics like location, communication, supplies, and timing. Despite initial options being unavailable – Plum Island Reservation and North End – due to prior cleanups and construction, I secured a private parking lot near Plum Island's center. This generous owner allowed both of his lots for the event.

To finalize the permission for the location, I met with the Newbury, MA Town Select Board to present plans and petition for approval. The PowerPoint presentation outlined the need for the clean-up, the methods and safety procedures to be employed along with the plan to properly dispose of the waste. The board graciously approved authorization for the clean-up.

On April 7th, 2023, the successful beach cleanup event happened. In spite of challenging weather conditions – including wind and chill – around 70 participants gathered to clean up the beach and remove trash and debris. The event took place within a 4-hour window and achieved its objective of raising awareness about the importance of maintaining clean beaches, even those that may appear initially clean. The strong local support, including students from Newburyport and Triton, Senator Bruce Tarr and his Colleague Kristin McDonald, as well as community environmental activists, contributed to the success of the cleanup effort.

Various other partners and sponsors supported this endeavor. ACES advisor/mentors provided excellent advice, principal Andy Wulf ensured NHS communicated the opportunity to students and parents, Northeast Planning Associates provided biodegradable gloves and bags to ensure that the cleanup was conducted in an environmentally sustainable manner. Mello Disposable Group generously donated two dumpster trash bins, while the Interact Club (Advised by Jill Moran) helpfully organized and motivated students to participate in the cleanup.

Ultimately, participants filled almost an entire 5x7 trash bin. Items collected included glass, cans, wires, Styrofoam, traps, clothing, and even syringes. The cleanup not only improved the aesthetic quality of the beach but also highlighted the need for continued environmental stewardship in the community. I was pleased that a result of this project was a message to the community that pollution remains a pressing issue requiring consistent attention. As an upcoming NHS senior, I will go off to college remembering that this project provided me with a real experience of organizing an event, developing teamwork, communicating clearly, and having the collective result being of benefit to my overall community. Going forward, I look to help other youth have similar experiences for their growth.

Reflecting on the event's outcome, I believe all participants served as ambassadors for our clean environment. Moreover, news coverage amplified the event's impact, igniting discussions about beach cleanliness and ecological rejuvenation. These triumphs inspire hope for ongoing youth engagement, fostering positive transformations within our community and environment.

Nolan and all ACES Youth Corps team members ask readers to, in your own way, find things you can do to help clean, protect and enhance our Mother Earth. Please share any thoughts by sending us a note at acesnewburyport@gmail.com . To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit https://www.aces-alliance.org.

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Nolan Smith

A Newburyport High School student (Class of 2024), Nolan is a member of the ACES Youth Corps. He has contributed to the success of environmental stewardship projects including ally outreach, clean up campaigns, a dune restoration project, and beach clean-ups including posters to raise awareness of these opportunities. He is a member of the varsity soccer and mountain biking high school teams. He also holds leadership positions in NHS clubs, such as treasurer of the Interact Club. In his free time, he appreciates traveling with his family as well as being engaged in countless active sports including surfing, skiing, biking, hiking, and golfing.

about the co-authors
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