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High School Students Inspired by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. During Earth Day Visit to EPA

2010 May 18

“Can I get my picture taken with him? Can we please go on a tour to see the solar panels? What was your college major? Do you know much about nanotechnology?” were just a few of the questions posed by high school students who visited EPA’s Research Triangle Park campus on Earth Day 2010 to hear environmental advocate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. speak.

Outdoors, under clear blue skies, the 40 students from Hillside, Jordan, Northern, and Southern High Schools in Durham focused their full attention on Mr. Kennedy as he passionately shared multiple stories and statistics to demonstrate that protecting our nation’s environmental resources makes economic sense. The hidden costs of getting our energy from non-renewable resources and accounting for the true costs of fossil fuels, as well as developing the infrastructure for renewable energy like solar, wind, and geothermal power, were themes that particularly inspired the students.

No texting, no talking. All eyes were glued on Kennedy, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, throughout his 1-hour talk as he offered a range of topics to pique their teenage minds as they consider subjects to explore in college and as careers: environmental science, engineering, law, politics, environmental justice, math, and history to name a few. In addition to Kennedy’s environmental anecdotes, he also shared personal stories including his trips to the White House as a child to visit his uncle, John F. Kennedy, in the Oval Office. I was in awe.

EarthDay2010-Robert-F-KenneAs Kennedy’s inspirational talk concluded, we did have many questions answered. YES, you can get your picture taken with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and YES you can take a tour to learn about our newly-installed solar panels. Students from Northern High School went on an impromptu tour of our environmentally-friendly building, learned about EPA’s air pollution research, and talked to several employees about their educations and their jobs. As for the nanotechnology question posed to me by a high school junior, I was “saved” at the last minute in the EPA Café line by running into a co-worker who does research in the area.

You can learn more about Kennedy’s Earth Day talk at EPA at or To read about the EPA Administrator’s visit to Southern High School last fall, go to

About the Author: Kelly Leovic manages EPA’s Environmental and Community Outreach Program in Research Triangle Park and has worked for the EPA as an environmental engineer since 1987, though this is the first time she had the opportunity to hear a Kennedy speak in person. She has three children and loves to inspire them, and anyone else who will listen, to protect our environment.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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14 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    May 18, 2010

    Inspire, idea or idol to be needed of the youth generation, now ? “idol”, my answer ! Great idea from EPA who invites Robert F.K. was inspired them. And I hope, EPA shall invite ‘the other idols” again for the youth…..!!!!!

  2. Edgardo Berraz permalink
    May 18, 2010

    It’s magnific than young people have the strengt to known EPA sections,principally welches than now making efforts to research about the great problem who is air pollution.Congratulations for this strong attached youngs.

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    May 18, 2010

    RFK,Jr. was a great choice to speak to the high schoolers. He is very passionate in what he believes in, knows the environmental issues well, and is very committed. And it sounds like he inspired all the kids; that is something that is hard to do, especially with high school kids. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. Rupert permalink
    May 18, 2010

    Another balanced point of view from an EPA.

    Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t you invite people who don’t work for EPA to write articles for this blog? Then you can let people respond to those articles.

  5. Lori permalink
    May 18, 2010

    Hi ** that was an especially nice educational story, environmentally & historically speaking . Some of the more descriptive, meaningful words stay with a person. I find it interesting, that so many issues can be mindfully termed with the same terminology. Like passionately, protecting, together, nation, cost, best interest, i think these are very good.

  6. Anthony j Grady permalink
    May 19, 2010

    nanotechnology is a true meaning of whats to come as far solar, wind, healing medications, to plactics containers, or best yet products that substain our economy for clean air, reduceing carbon and global warming it so amazing and our furture the world is starting to shape with it engeenering, science, and most important education opening the door. I love the picture of Mr Kennedy and i commen you to continue to support or next generation their furture is clear and means of support growth jobs and edu thanks all for your the site.
    Anthony J Grady
    Todays world turning over a new leaf!

  7. Laura permalink
    May 20, 2010

    good way to educate everyone :)

  8. Dan permalink
    May 28, 2010

    I’ve seen those solar panels – the EPA partnered with Duke Energy to install them atop the EPA’s childcare center. By the way Mr. Kennedy serves as senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council and was named one of TIME magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for his success in helping Riverkeeper, a nonprofit environmental organization, lead the fight to restore the Hudson River.

  9. linda permalink
    July 23, 2010

    Interesting. It just shows that children today are more aware of the facts that we need ideas for energy resources that are renewable. It also makes me hopeful that our planet will have brighter future with this kids that are enthusiastic about our environment. Regards.

  10. Avraham permalink
    September 27, 2010

    Young people today have the opportunity to reverse the environmentally disastrous policies that the older generations have left to them.
    Having young people participate in environmental awareness campaigns is the only sure way to ensure that tomorrow’s policies will be environmentally friendly for generations to come.Teaching young people basics like choosing renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuels go a long way in conserving the environment

  11. $omkar permalink
    July 28, 2011

    Outdoors, under clear blue skies, the 40 students from Hillside, Jordan, Northern, and Southern High Schools in Durham focused .
    Another balanced point of view from an EPA.Inspire, idea or idol to be needed of the youth generation, now ?

  12. Marc Azada permalink
    July 29, 2011

    Its good to know that children are participating in this kind of project. Its good to know that they are also aware of what is happening to their surroundings.

  13. Olivia permalink
    November 9, 2011

    Its brilliant that public figures like Roger Kennedy Jr make the time to go and inspire children like this.. Meeting someone like that first hand can give such a huge boost to a person and certainly when they’re working on gaining an education.

  14. Simon permalink
    November 9, 2011

    Great to see kids getting involved in projects like this and its such a boost for Robert Kennedy Jr to be involved as well. .

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