Where I’ve Been (Part II)

I know what you’re thinking- nobody wakes up one morning desperately wanting to see how water temperatures will affect some mussel species. So I’m going to try to break down for you where my interest stemmed from.

My parents have always been more eco-conscious than most, doing their best to separate our recyclables and to reuse plastic grocery bags. My mom lives for our local farmers’ market and my dad prides himself on taking over two weeks to use a tank of gas. But I don’t believe just growing up in a household like the one I did gave me the push I needed to start looking into climate change- though it certainly helped.

It really started in the 4th grade when my teacher assigned every kid in my class an environmental topic on which to write a short essay. Ms. Falcone nonchalantly plopped my future on my desk when she gave me a packet titled “Climate Change”.

“I think you can handle this one,” I remember her telling me. The flame was lit.

Fast-forward a few years, and I was racking my brain for ideas in my school’s ROGATE classroom (ROGATE is an optional, extra class for ‘gifted and talented’ students in elementary and middle schools). It was the beginning of 7th grade and my teacher had just announced that we could choose our topics for our year-long research projects that we would present to kids from across the state at the end of the school year.

I had no idea what to do. Looking back now, I don’t think I even knew what I was interested in at the time. Sure, I played soccer and enjoyed writing and did well in school, but I didn’t exactly have an identity yet. And I had no intentions of wasting an entire year studying something I didn’t like.

Then I remembered my fourth grade paper. From there, it didn’t take much convincing from my teacher and parents to pursue the project; everything I read about climate change fascinated me.

My hypothesis? “Manhattan will be underwater within the next fifty years.”

Yes, I was a bold one.

But I presented and was awarded a bronze “Satori” medal for my project. I can’t remember feeling prouder. The flame began to grow.

Another year and I was starting 8th grade. I had the option to continue my ROGATE project from the past year in hopes of receiving a gold Satori award. I flipped the decision over in my mind- this would require doing some sort of internship or volunteer work, getting published, and giving a public presentation all related to my project.

I was overwhelmed. I talked to my teacher about it and we came up with a plan: intern at the NY Department for Environmental Protection for a day, get published in a local weekly newspaper, give a short talk at a regional speaking contest.

Guess what? Check, check, check- I did it.

That flame was now a fire, and it was starting to spread uncontrollably.

And so I leave you with this quote:

“Everybody who’s doing anything positive in life had a teacher who turned the wattage up and wouldn’t let them turn it down.” – Chris Gardner

‘Til next time.

P.S.- Just so you don’t feel bad about yourself- how’d you like this picture to get published in the newspaper your whole town reads? Thanks, Dad.