Meet the newest member of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation Youth Advisory Board.
At 16 years old, you have already accomplished so much, what first drew you to climate activism?
It all started in 6th grade when my science teacher presented a unit about climate change. At first, I didn't know what it was. She went so in depth about rising carbon emissions, and how it wasn't something of the future, it was happening in this moment. I remember as a child being hospitalized for asthma due to wildfires in California and when I traveled back to my childhood home after the wildfires had passed, it was completely gone. I thought wildfires were just a part of living in California, but they are so connected to climate change. I had this feeling that I can’tnot do something. It was the culmination of knowing I had to do something and knowing only good things can come from taking action.
Can you describe your organization ‘Climate Now’ and what inspired you to start it?
I started Climate Now back in 2018. Up until that point, I had been interacting with climate activism, and while doing all these actions, I would go back to school and talk to my peers. I noticed how most kids didn’t really understand what climate change was and those that did, didn’t know how to have a tangible impact on the issue. At that moment, I knew I had to pivot and go back to youth education. Climate Now is an organization that uses the power of education as a tool to engage and empower people to start activism projects in their own communities. What drew me to youth education is that all these actions stem from the same sense of awareness about climate change. When I was first educating myself, it was all geared towards those studying environmentalism and it was not easy to understand the process. My mission is to make the issues of climate change relatable and engaging for young kids.
In your opinion, how does mental health intersect with environmentalism?
As a kid, I was diagnosed with depression and OCD, so mental health is something I have struggled with and know a lot about. When I first started engaging in climate activism, I was struggling with my mental health and struggling to understand whether or not I mattered. Thanks to my work in activism, all of sudden I was thinking about the world around me, not just myself. I was forced to focus on this huge issue and it really gave me a passion and a purpose in life. Through this work I also found a huge support system around me in the climate activism community.
Can you discuss what the ‘Born This Way Foundation’ is and how you are involved with it?
The Born This Way Foundation was started by Lady Gaga and her mom as a way to create a safe space for young people. They saw such a need to give young people the tools to feel better in their own skin and I got involved as an advisory board member. As a board member, I advise them on their different projects, and I connect with their team to continue helping young people. It's been a really great experience thus far and I'm so excited to be a part of helping so many young people.
What has been the biggest lesson you have learned since starting your activism work?
There is no right way to be an activist. I thought I had to protest, volunteer, but you need to make it your own. A friend of mine in Africa is playing soccer and every time he scores a goal they plant a tree. He’s such a good example showing that there is no right way to take action. Another really important lesson I have learned is that young people are powerful. We often underestimate the changes we can create by speaking up. People think of all the standards they need to meet to be an activist, but no matter how small our actions are, they inspire people and have the power to create a chain reaction. All of our actions are important, no matter how small, whether you are starting a conversation or starting an organization.