I attended “Drawdown” in Grand Rapids last week. The conference featured international sustainability expert Paul Hawken who has published a book, Drawdown, with one hundred methods for reducing carbon emissions causing climate change. When I entered the ballroom of almost 500 people, I was surprised and pleased to see a group of Whitehall Middle School students, along with teacher Susan Tate and school superintendent Jerry MacDowell. The group was in attendance with the support of the Steelcase Foundation, which had also supported attendance for several other school groups. The students were attentive and serious, and I was thrilled when all of them were asked to the stage to offer their input to the entire audience. They had been asked for their spontaneous words, but they were still very eloquent and heartfelt. The audience gave them both respect and applause.
I spoke with two girls from the group a few days after, Kenzie and McKayla. I was pleased to see that they were more than ready with their thoughts. They noted how they had not had much notice of the conference, as part of the recently formed Lexus Eco Challenge team for the school, coordinated by Mrs. Tate. But they were glad to go and very pleased to have been treated just like any adult at the conference. The Lexus Eco Challenge is a national program where students teams choose an environmental issue important to them, create and implement an action plan, and then report on the results. Whitehall has a reputation for doing well, and even won the grand prize in 2017, under Mrs. Tate’s direction. The girls don’t know what the team will decide to do this year, but they are passionate and motivated to make a difference! Watch them go!