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The Importance of Feeling Empowered: Opinions from Current Students Working for an Environmental Non-profit

Updated: Jun 5

Siena: Hi I’m Siena, a rising Sophomore at the University of Virginia! I’m the Director of Strategy & Communications, and I’ve been working for Tree-Plenish for about three years and it all started when I first hosted a Tree-Plenish event during my Junior year of high school. I was one of the leaders of my school’s environmental club, but we didn’t have any ways for my peers and I to actively take action in our own community. That’s when my teacher and I stumbled upon Tree-Plenish.

Avery: And, I’m Avery, a student at the University of Arkansas studying International Relations, and similar to Siena, the issues surrounding climate change felt too colossal for me to handle. Even still, I was looking for ways to help, and found a job posting for the Tree-Plenish outreach team. 

Siena: In a world full of environmental issues, empowering the next generation with the tools and knowledge to make a difference is imperative. We hear it all the time: students are powerful agents of change. In high school I felt like this message was constantly being echoed to me, but I lacked an outlet to actively express my passion for environmentalism. Avery and I both found Tree-Plenish while looking for outlets to express our concern, share ideas with other like-minded individuals, and make a visible difference in communities across the country. 

Avery: Exactly! It gave me a space in high school to feel like I was a student leader and actively making a difference to fight climate change, while sharing the mission with other students too. Even in college now, I’ve been able to work with high school students to empower them to use their voice in creating positive change. 

Siena: Tree-Plenish allows any student to host a tree-planting event in their town using the organization’s resources. We help you not only plant trees, but also cultivate a sense of leadership and community engagement for anyone who wants to be involved! 

Avery: Like many environmental organizations, we get to work with passionate students from a diverse range of fields – computer science, communications, logistics, education, etc. – that each plays a role in creating environmental change. 

Siena: I agree. I feel like anyone can find their place on the team, no matter what their passions. There are so many opportunities for students to share their perspectives.

Avery: We are constantly being inspired by new talent too, like Katie and Sophie! 

Katie: I’m Katie, and I’m a high school sophomore from Massachusetts! I also started getting involved with Tree-Plenish when I hosted an event at my school, and then I applied for a summer internship to join the team a year later. This shows how getting involved in community engagement is one way to create environmental opportunities, regardless of your age. My experience has demonstrated that the possibilities for youth change-makers are limitless. Sophie is another fellow student on our team. 

Sophie: Hi! I’m Sophie, and I am currently a junior in high school from New York. I became an intern for Tree-Plenish to spread my passion for sustainability and tree-planting with other students and encourage them to take initiative to support the health of our planet.Through Tree-Plenish social media platforms, I spread awareness about environmental education, climate news, and opportunities for students to get involved with various environmental organizations.

Siena: There are so many benefits to working at Tree-Plenish, but we also partner with so many organizations like GreenMatters, EarthEcho, and Neighborhood Forest that all have similar missions of empowering youth to take action against climate change. These types of opportunities for young people to get involved in leadership and community engagement are more important than ever. What are some of the benefits of this type of work?

  • Education → By integrating environmental education into the curriculum, students gain a deeper understanding of mitigating climate change, preserving biodiversity, and maintaining ecosystem balance. Most environmental organizations don’t just exist to create meaning change, but also to educate people on why their work is vital. Tree-Plenish provides educational resources and workshops, equipping students with the knowledge to become informed advocates for environmental conservation.

  • Community Engagement → Empowering high school students with environmental leadership extends beyond individual actions for community engagement. Through organizing events in their local communities, students become catalysts for change, rallying their peers, educators, and neighbors to participate in environmental conservation efforts. This engagement strengthens community ties and fosters a collective sense of responsibility towards the environment.

  • Leadership Opportunity →  Environmental organizations empower high school students to become leaders in advocacy. By taking ownership of sustainability initiatives, students develop leadership skills such as project management, communication, and teamwork. These experiences not only prepare students for future endeavors but also cultivate a generation of environmentally conscious leaders ready to tackle any challenge.

  • Sustainable Impact → The impact of empowering high school students through Tree-Plenish extends far beyond the immediate tree-planting events. By instilling a sense of environmental stewardship and responsibility, Tree-Plenish cultivates lifelong habits of sustainability. Students carry these values into their future endeavors, influencing their communities, workplaces, and beyond, creating a ripple effect of positive change for generations to come.

Siena, Avery, Katie, & Sophie: We all hope that you are inspired by the stories from our team! To cultivate a new generation of environmental leaders, we need educators like you to motivate your students. Thanks for reading! 


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