Whistler high school students raise awareness of climate issues

Students at Whistler High School, in partnership with the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE), are taking climate change awareness into their own hands with the Project Now initiative.

The program, now in its first year, began as an idea in 2019 between AWARE’s Program Coordinator, Taniell Hamilton and Executive Director, Claire Ruddy. Their goal was to inspire the students of the Whistler High School Eco Club to become more involved in the cause and to teach them practical skills along the way.

“One of the things I’ve found is there’s this disconnect between people who have ideas and they don’t know how to get their ideas off the ground,” Hamilton explained.

“So what we wanted to do was create this mentorship program where students could come up with a project that they were passionate about, and then, through community mentors and Whistler leaders, really encourage those ideas and pitch them. to different people in the community who might be able to bring them to life.

Project Now consists of 27 students divided into five groups each with the aim of approaching climate change in a different way. Projects include things like improving waste management and promoting healthy vegetarian eating habits in a positive way. Some also raise awareness of the environmental impacts of fast fashion, as well as social media campaigns, and learn and understand local politics and bring that knowledge back to inform their peers about what’s going on in the community.

According to Sierra Haziza, president of the high school Eco Club and leader of the group project Erase the Waste, teaming up with AWARE has been incredibly beneficial to them, both giving them skills they can use in their future careers and helping them understand how changes are being made at the community level.

“Actually, I hope to pursue a career and undergraduate studies in sustainable development,” Haziza said.

“So what really excites me is putting to use the skills that I’ve learned through my mentorship, so things like engaging different stakeholders in meetings, how to run meetings and all those skills, and really apply them and use what I learned in post-secondary [education]. I am excited to have a future in climate action.

Ruddy said the success of each group is defined by the students themselves and the goals they set for their projects, but they try to work with the same goal and configure each project to be “SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound”. -jump.”

As the school year begins to wind down, the students are focusing on raising awareness for their projects and engaging with as many people as possible. But regardless, whether they reach 10 people or 10,000, Haziza believes the program has already been a huge success.

“I think Project Now as a whole has already been incredibly successful in the sense that Eco Club next year will have such strong connections and resources,” she said.

“But I think it’s also been successful in the sense that the actual mentorships have taught [us] a lot about how to engage in different situations, and I think those are important tools to have.

Ruddy intends to continue this program next year with even more students involved. She also hopes that members of the community will take notice of what these students are doing and also go one step further to reduce their own footprint.

“These students are going to live the longest under the conditions created by human-induced climate change,” Ruddy said.

“And so the more we can do to help them feel empowered and act on the climate, the better.”

Teresa H. Sadler