What can we do?
June 2, 2017
About a month ago, at the end of Physics class, my lab table got into a conversation with Eric Perry. It began with him talking about how we should be grateful for what we have, but eventually we were lamenting over the fact that we were devastated by the horrible things we saw on the news every day. We were disappointed that it seemed like there was nothing we students could do to change what was going on around us.
Or so we thought.
After that conversation, I set out to see what efforts we truly could undertake to improve the condition of the world. I was happy to discover that there are quite a lot of opportunities for students. Read on to see how HB students are making a difference, and maybe gain some inspiration for your own endeavors.
Start where you are
Let’s face the facts: we live in two very small towns in a very small county of a very small state. Because of this, many of us do not feel we can make a meaningful impact on the world. This is untrue. Even the smallest of actions make a bigger difference than you’d think. All it takes to change the world is a good idea and the courage to follow it.
Take, for example, senior Allie Campbell. Prior to starting her freshman year at Hollis Brookline, Campbell attended a Montessori school where each trimester focused on a specific topic. During one particular trimester, the school concentrated on waste matter and its impact on the environment. After watching a film and discussing the gloomy details of consumer waste in America, Campbell was horrified – and inspired.
“[My class] talked a lot about plastic bags and how that type of plastic is the worst type, so this year I really wanted to do an independent project,” she explained. “Plastic film isn’t usually recycled, but it is recyclable, so I thought that since it’s so bad for the environment and it’s not recycled very often, I liked the idea of trying to start a recycling program for it.”
After applying for an independent study, Campbell got right to work setting up her plastic film recycling program here in Hollis. She got in touch with the solid waste supervisor at the Hollis Transfer Station, who helped her set up the recycling collection there.
“Every Saturday I go to the dump, and we basically consolidate all the plastic film into bigger bags so it’s not all loose,“ Campbell said. “We weigh it and load it into our car and bring it to Hannaford in Nashua. From there it gets brought to the grocery store distribution center, and then Trex picks it up from there. Trex is a plastic film vendor, and they recycle it and process it into composite decking material. It looks like wood, but it’s actually plastic, so it gets reused in that way.”
It was easy for Campbell to get her project started. She simply had to reach out and spread the word, which she does through posts on the Hollis Brookline Community Page and her blog, Deep Green, which she is running as a component of her independent study.
“I wasn’t really sure if I was actually going to be able to make this happen,” said Campbell. “But I think if you have an idea, you should reach out to the organizations and people that could make it possible. A lot of times, those people are really excited that you’re interested in doing something and they’re going to help you get where you want to go. And just be confident and don’t be afraid to just give it a try.”
Campbell is proof that one individual can change the lives of dozens – or even save the Earth. They just have to go for it.
Give to those who have less
It might not be possible to help every person in the world, but making a difference in one’s community is a great first step. It’s just as important to give to those who have less as it is to appreciate what you’re lucky enough to have. If you’re looking to begin volunteering and aren’t sure where to start, there are multiple groups at Hollis Brookline who know the importance of volunteering and can point you in the right direction.
Hollis Brookline’s chapter of the National Honor Society embodies local volunteerism – members are required to complete two in-school and four out-of-school community service hours each quarter. In addition, every year the group takes on a local organization as their chapter project, spending the year volunteering and raising money for the cause. This year’s chapter project is End 68 Hours of Hunger, a local organization that provides food for children during the weekend when they can’t get lunches from school.
“I think that’s something that people don’t really think about as a problem, especially around here,” said NHS President Naomi Goodman ‘17 on the issue of hunger that the organization tackles. “I thought it was really important to bring awareness to that. [End 68] has a lot of good opportunities for us to benefit them.”
There’s so much joy to be felt in volunteering to help those around you – but volunteerism doesn’t only impact the people who you’re volunteering for.
“I think obviously it’s really important for the people that you’re helping, but even more than that, it’s beneficial to yourself because you’re giving yourself and teaching yourself about need in the community,” Goodman said.
HB the Change is another group through which one can donate their time without the academic commitment of the National Honor Society. The club gives its time to many local charities, including the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter.
“For us, volunteering is important not because we need the hours for our college resume, but because we genuinely love the feeling of giving back to our community and making people happy,” said club co-president Jackie Haytayan ‘17. “The easiest thing to do [to begin volunteering] is start off small. Starting small isn’t a bad thing. Even the smallest acts of kindness mean a lot to certain people.”
One doesn’t have to restrict their giving to local causes, either. Donations to national and global causes are an equally productive way to make a difference. There are thousands of charities and nonprofit groups always looking for more resources. One such group is the World Food Programme, which sponsors the site freerice.com. On the site, the user can play educational games, and for every right answer, ten grains of rice are donated to countries in need.
Sharing your resources with others – be it food, money, time, or energy – is a key part of making the world a better place.
Get informed and use your voice
On January 31, 2017, pop singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles posted a video on her Facebook page of herself calling her Congressional representative to express certain concerns. “I’m nervous,” she says in the clip. “I feel like I don’t know what to say, but I feel it is important to use my voice as a voter.” Even though she ultimately was unable to connect with her representative, she admits to her viewers that she was intimidated to get involved politically, but knew she needed to fulfill her civic duty. She then encourages her viewers to do the same. “I did it, you can do it,” she says at the end of the video. “Make your voice known and make your vote heard.”
Bareilles demonstrated an important part of being socially aware. Being actively informed about what is going on around you, in the political sphere and otherwise, is vital to making a real difference in the world. Reading newspapers and watching news programs are good resources, but when the political jargon we have to absorb is too much to easily understand, it is equally important to discuss current events with others.
A group of freshmen developed a club this year that allows for its participants to do just that. Lily Coady, Victoria Bruznik, and Mary Martin founded Topics in Politics, a group that meets every Friday after school to discuss current events and broaden their understanding of them through vetted sources, such as award-winning newspapers. “The idea initially was to have people come in, for example one of the big ideas was to have someone in health care, because we’ve had a big debate about that,” said Heidi Foster, English teacher and club advisor. “Everybody’s welcome, no matter your opinion. The idea is to be grounded in genuine curiosity, and interest in the facts of those big questions.”
Being able to separate opinions and facts is vital in this tumultuous era of widespread inaccuracy. Knowledge of what is going on around you also helps you to serve your greatest civic duty: voting.
“[Our students] are very aware of what’s going on – it’s hard not to be… these can be challenging topics and discussions that we have sometimes because there’s a lot at stake,” Foster said of the discussions held both in the club and in her classrooms. “But I really wanted to have a neutral, safe place to explore and discuss those topics, but also our fears around what’s going on so we can support each other… I think that has nothing to do with what people’s political opinions are. This is a deeper level.”
Topics in Politics meets every Friday in room 274 after school.