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Students drive change in schools in one of the most powerful cities in the world: 'Our energy is not running out'

"It's a lot of work, but I know we're up for it."

"It's a lot of work, but I know we’re up for it."

Photo Credit: iStock

A grassroots movement of teenagers from Washington, D.C., has successfully lobbied their school board to accept their proposal of developing more environmentally conscious schools. 

The D.C. State Board of Education unanimously adopted the "Green New Deal for Schools" after meeting with nearly 80 local high schoolers, lending its support to demands like building eco-friendly infrastructure, supplying free and sustainably grown lunches, introducing careers in climate reform, designing climate disaster plans, and implementing a curriculum focused on green causes. 

A group from School Without Walls High School initially brought its resolution to the board last November with only a dozen members but was met with skepticism, according to junior Anna Mayer. The group reworked its pitch and recruited more high schoolers in the following weeks and got the board to back its proposal in January.

While the approval is a step in the right direction, the Washington Post acknowledged that the board "wields little power over schools" and offered what is "essentially an ideological endorsement." 

Thus, the teenagers have to take their fight to the D.C. Council in their quest to enact change and will encounter plenty of red tape if they want their effort to manifest itself in the form of new laws and budget adjustments — something they believe they are equipped to handle.

"Our energy is not running out," said Zoe Fisher, a junior at School Without Walls. 

Fisher and Mayer co-founded the school's branch of the Sunrise Movement, which prepares like-minded youths for their journey in climate justice.

"I grew up in California, and the climate crisis was in my face for as long as I can remember, and I always felt helpless," Fisher told the Post. "We were pretty powerless, and it didn't matter what I did with my time or what I reposted on Instagram."

However, the national organization has empowered burgeoning climate advocates to take immediate action, offering students training and other resources.

"We're running these local campaigns to build bases," said Adah Crandall, an organizer for the Sunrise Movement. "'The 'Green New Deal for Schools' is not about getting recycling bins in our cafeterias. It's about fundamentally transforming our entire school systems to face the climate crisis."

"I think the 'Green New Deal for Schools' resolution represents a bold vision for what our education system can and should look like, especially in an era where climate change poses a massive threat to our way of life," D.C. Council member Janeese Lewis George said. "It's a lot of work, but I know we're up for it. And it's incredibly important that we that we get this right."

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