By Natalie Liller
My friends couldn’t believe that, instead of sleeping till noon, I was spending my first week of summer vacation rising early to attend a Climate Change Program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Research Triangle Park, NC. My interest in climate change had grown since my AP Environmental Science class, and I applied, yearning to find out what I could do to help combat the impacts of rising global temperatures. The EPA Climate Change Program was the way to go!
The first morning of the weeklong program arrived, and I jumped into my car – with a cup of highly caffeinated coffee in hand of course – and embarked into unknown territory. As I approached the EPA, I could only gaze up and all around in awe of its grandeur. Such a large building, but what and who did it hold? I couldn’t wait to get started and meet people just as interested in the cause and curious about what careers climate change could offer.
The Program’s 31 students had the privilege of meeting with and hearing from scientists, researchers, analysts, and more — from EPA, NC State University, Duke, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and the Alliance for Climate Education. Students came from high schools all over central NC: Panther Creek, Northern, Enloe, Riverside (go Pirates!), and many more.
We learned about greenhouse gas emissions, global impacts of climate change, environmental policy, and ways to reduce the impacts of climate change. It was engaging and thorough. I couldn’t help but be inspired by the enthusiasm of my peers – asking questions, providing input and opinions, and being curious about a speaker’s work and career path.
The program was full of hands-on activities. One included building particle sensors to monitor atmospheric carbon and another focused on pretending we were researchers in frigid Greenland. Each activity offered us a chance to use our hands, work collaboratively, and have fun. Even more so, we were offered a taste of what climate change careers. It is encouraging to know that opportunity is out there—that I can take my knowledge and love for the environment anywhere I chose. I can combat global climate change from a cubicle, focusing on computer models, or I can engage in field research halfway across the world.
The program opened doors, connected me to a network of people I would not have met otherwise, and made me realize I can make a difference in my home, my school, my community, and worldwide. Now, let’s go fight climate change and save the world!
About the Author: Natalie Liller is a rising senior at Riverside High School in Durham, hoping to pursue a career in politics with a concentration in environmental policy. She was excited to participate in EPA’s 2013 Climate Change Summer Program. Learn more about the Climate Change Program.