by Jorine Campopiano
It’s all or nothing. I’m all-in. This is the way I live my life. I am passionate about what I do and work hard on the things I care about. I feel lucky to work as an Environmental Education Coordinator for EPA’s Region 9 in California, where every day I get to work with kids and educators who have that same passion.
When I was a little girl, my father – a nature and hiking enthusiast — would take me on long trips to our local mountains. It was grueling keeping up with him — we would hike for hours. We backpacked and camped in the snow. We always stayed out too long and would end up pulling out our flashlights just to get back to the car. It wasn’t always fun – I would get tired, grumpy, and yes even cry, but I had little choice but to keep moving, I didn’t give up. I grew to appreciate nature, and now as a mother of three young boys, I try to give them similar hands-on experiences so they can understand the bigger issues our earth faces. At EPA, we support the philosophy of hands-on, interactive environmental education that connects science and environmental issues to students’ everyday lives.
This week, EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality are recognizing winners of the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators and the President’s Environmental Youth Award. These programs recognize teachers and K-12 youth who harness their passion and put it towards a project that promotes awareness of our nation’s natural resources and encourages positive community involvement. Our student winners in Region 9 – a class from the Mount Madonna School in Watsonville, California – were inspired by their desire to protect several Pacific sea turtle species. What impressed me most about this project was the complexity and diversity of what they did. This wasn’t some standard school project. The class jumped in, making a movie about the sea turtles, promoting plastic bag bans at City Council meetings, and acting as global ambassadors, by raising thousands of dollars to educate Indonesian fishing village children about the issue.
I am excited to meet the winners this week and am honored to participate in the Presidential Awards Ceremony as a representative from EPA Region 9. I brought my eldest son, and I hope that he is inspired by hearing about what students across the country have done to improve their environment. Maybe he’ll also understand more about the work his mother does to protect the earth, as I learned from my father.
It’s been said that just a few committed citizens have the power to change the world. I believe this and believe in the potential shown by these winners. I’m all-in.
Jorine has worked at EPA since 2003, focusing on issues related to wetlands, water and children’s health before her interests expanded to environmental education. She holds a Master of Science in Environmental Science & Management.