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The Spark that Encourages Others to Care

The Climate Center’s Youth Advisory Board Member, Sam Perry, beautifully described what drives her to be a young activist in the Press Democrat issue of Teen Life. “I want to be the spark that encourages others to care about the environment as much as I do.”


By Martin Espinoza, The Press Democrat

September 4, 2014

When Samantha Perry began attending Maria Carrillo High School three years ago, she wondered why there was no formal recycling program.

The school did have a dumpster for recyclable material, but there were no recycling bins placed throughout the campus, Perry said. Essentially, there was no strategic plan for getting students to become active participants in protecting the environment through recycling.

Today, the 17-year-old Maria Carrillo senior — who everyone knows as Sam — is working with school administration officials to forge a campuswide recycling program. In the process, the young environmentalist is teaching her fellow students an important lesson: Environmental conservation and the preservation of natural resources are not just someone else’s responsibility.

“I believe that many people realize that the Earth needs protecting, but everyone believes that someone else will take charge in conservation and preservation,” Perry said. “I want to be the spark that encourages others to care about the environment as much as I do.”

At 17, Perry is a self-described “nature lover” who has traveled enough of the world to realize how beautiful it is and how important it is to keep it that way. She says the “fantastic powers of the Earth,” such as its nutrient cycling and energy flow, are being destroyed by human carelessness.

The school recycling program is an environmental effort that shows Maria Carrillo students that “smaller change can translate into a larger impact,” she said.

Perry is president of the school’s Eco Club and is a member of the youth advisory board of the Santa Rosa-based The Climate Center, where she interned during the summer of 2013.

“Sam is really motivated, she’s really dedicated, she has a maturity beyond her years and an ability to motivate her peers and follow through on her actions,” said Amy Jolly, program manager of The Climate Center’s ECO2school program, which encourages students to walk, bike or carpool as a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Sonoma County.

Perry is a Santa Rosa native who loves to run. She’s captain of both the varsity cross country and track teams.

Music is also a big part of her life.

She’s a member of the Maria Carrillo High School Chamber Singers and is a trained violinist who has played the instrument since she was a toddler.

She played with the Santa Rosa Youth Orchestra for four years.

Perry said she’ll likely attend a liberal arts school next fall. The schools she’s considering include: Occidental College in Los Angeles; Whitman College in Wala Wala, Wash.; University of Denver; Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore.; Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minn.; and Oberlin College in Ohio.

Sam’s gaining skills and confidence through her participation on The Climate Center’s Youth Advisory Board.  While the Youth Advisory Board provides the next generation’s perspective to The Climate Center regarding climate change and related behavior-changing solutions, The Climate Center staff works with the Youth Advisory Board to educate them on solutions that significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and encourages these young leaders to raise their voice and offer their ideas in the conversation.  Sam’s recycling program helps the environment, and her service at a Youth Advisory Board member is broadening her horizons, teaching her how to look at larger issues such as energy use and transportation choices.  The ultimate goal is to empower Sam and her fellow advisory board members to become active in climate change, influencing adults and lead their peers in changing behaviors.

Paola Alvarado, ECO2school Program Coordinator