Parents are role models. During adolescent years, however, these same models of inspiration lose their charm and turn into our source of wit and demise. And years later, we catch ourselves admitting the unthinkable, “Wow. I am so much like my mother/father”. North Star Chapter grassroots leader Stephanie Spitzer had such a response when I asked her how her story with the Sierra Club started. “I remember I was reading my father’s social activism blog. I rarely took his posts seriously, but now I see that they sparked certain interests in me for activism,” she answered.
During her stay in Europe through University of Minnesota’s study abroad program, Stephanie became aware of the impact of environmental protection on healthy communities. She was especially impressed by the efficiency of public transportation (“that means less carbon emissions,” she reminds) in Germany and Austria. Amazed by the efficient transit and also the cleanness of rivers in Germany, she asked herself the question that sparked her self-motivation: “Why do we not have these at home?” After her graduation, this challenge was a major reason for Stephanie to get involved with the Sierra Club.
I pushed Stephanie to tell more about what “actually” brought her to environmental activism, by nature a demanding engagement. Could she have just had leisurely fun with her peers and leave activism for her parents? She first responded that she got involved “Because my peers were not doing it. Environmental justice should be part of everything we do,” then she continued, evoking how her parents’ passion for activism and concern for environment (They used to be WWF members) resonates strongly in her.
Stephanie started by tabling at the Minnesota State Fair. The Transit to Parks (or Green Space) came next, which for her was a memorable experience that involved everything from the Metro Transit bus and train connections to parks and green spaces in seven metro area counties. She later joined the Clean Energy campaign as grassroots team leader. Stephanie was impressed by the diversity of people at her first committee meeting that took almost 5 hours; yet, she wanted to expand to an even wider community. This is how her grassroots passion led her to the Somali Family Services and American Relief Agency for the Horn of Africa. Her experiences with the East African community have helped her validate her cause that climate change is an indivisible global topic beyond borders.
Stephanie actively participates in various committee meetings and helps spread the word through stories. “Yes, stories,” she repeats. “They are crucial for my plan to be a mentor for young people’s [life] choices.” Is this future plan not reminiscent of her parents’ activism that she inherited? Isn’t it also a pedagogical innovation for it includes raising awareness about both environmental conservation and early future planning? We are thankful to young Sierrans like Stephanie for making us pose these questions.
Profile by Murat Altun.
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