Alexa ’13 was nominated as a White House Champion of Change in the Youth Greening Schools category in late July by the non-profit The Center for Green Schools for founding the Green Teens, an after-school environmental education program for elementary school students, in 2010. The Obama Administration’s Champions of Change initiative recognizes ordinary Americans who are doing “extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.”
According to the Green Teens website, the program aims to inspire students to “take action, make behavioral changes, and become green leaders” through an original curriculum created and taught by Marlborough students. Alexa said that she founded the Green Teens to raise awareness of environmental issues, specifically throughout the public elementary school system.
“I wanted to answer what I thought to be basic questions, such as ‘Why is it important to protect our environment?’ or ‘Why is recycling good for the environment?’” Alexa said.
Rachel Gutter, Director of The Center for Green Schools, visited Marlborough in March 2011 to tour the campus and assess the effectiveness of the School’s LEED-certified facilities. After meeting Alexa on this visit, Gutter decided to observe the Green Teens in action at Betty Plasencia Elementary School. Gutter was so impressed by the Green Teens’ work that she pledged the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) would match the program’s current grant of $2,500, which was awarded by the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), a national environmental education program.
Meanwhile, the White House contacted The Center for Green Schools to search for potential candidates to be named as Champions of Change. After seeing the Green Teens’ work, Gutter decided to nominate Alexa.
“I didn’t know about the nomination until a representative from the White House contacted my parents,” Alexa said.
Alexa was among eight students or groups of students named Champions of Change for Greener Schools. On Friday, Jul. 8, the honorees participated in a teleconference with White House officials. From the Board Room, Alexa spoke with Nikki Buffa, Deputy Chief of Staff of the White House Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ), and Kal Penn, Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Middle School Director Robert Bryan said that student-led initiatives like Green Teens are characterized by a passion which evokes effectual, meaningful change. “Schools serve as the real advocates to student projects, but it is through students’ experience that confidence and leadership develops,” Bryan said.
“This passion is so organic and authentic; that’s probably the most important ingredient in community outreach and service programs.”
English instructor Sarah Wolf, the Green Teens’ faculty advisor, said that the distributive leadership and collective dedication of the mission of the Green Teens are what make the program so outstanding.“It is inspiring to see the girls take full ownership of the program,” Wolf said. “They have used trial and error to figure out which lessons work with which kinds of students, and they are always assessing their curriculum and its impact.”
This year, the Green Teens will focus boosting participation and open up its membership to ninth through twelfth graders. Previously, the Green Teens Action Team only involved members from the Class of 2013. The Green Teens also aim to expand their program from five to ten elementary schools by the end of the 2011-2012 school year.
Greer ’13, a member of the Green Teens Action Team, said that the program is so rewarding because it was created by students for students.
“My favorite aspect of the Green Teens program is the relationships we create with the younger students,” she said. “The curriculum is engaging and makes it easy for all the kids to participate.”