Pleasanton high school seniors, Lauren Londono, Anika Nicolas, Bryan Luo, Varsha Madapoosi, and Paulina Umansky, received scholarships totaling $4,500 for their conservation and sustainability work in Pleasanton. Collectively the students conducted waste audits, implemented recycling and organics programs, conducted Earth Day events, and worked on a project to bring environmental education to elementary students.

The students were active participants in a club that formed at Amador Valley High School in 2016, Local Leaders of the 21st Century, which helps students get involved in local environmental public policy. This year, the club lead the initiative in instituting recycling and organics sorting on Pleasanton Unified School District’s campuses. This allows schools to adopt an integrated waste management policy in order to comply with state laws requiring schools to recycle and separate organics from trash.

Funding for the scholarships was provided by the Go Green Initiative thanks to grants from the City of Pleasanton and staffing firm Robert Half, which was named to Barron’s inaugural list of the “100 Most Sustainable Companies” in the U.S.

Students will be honored at the World Environment Day Luncheon on June 6 in Pleasanton. Details at www.tinyurl.com/pleasantonyouth.

“Growing up in a town where I seldom thought about my effects on the environment, it made me become so careless,” notes senior officer Lauren Londono. “As a result, this club reinforced my passion of advocating for environmental issues in my community. I have learned from this club that most students are very passionate and hungry to make change, but don’t know where to begin. Thus, spreading awareness and advocating for something bigger than myself helped me begin to change the environmental consciousness of my school. This club gave me a voice in my community and school district that allowed me to lead by example and live my values through my actions.”

Touching on the skill’s he has gained while working as a Local Leader, Bryan Luo notes, “On a broader level, this club has taught me a lot of valuable social leadership skills. The club has taught me how to manage and communicate with large groups of people but most importantly it has taught me the power of student voice, and the value of including students in environmental policy projects.”

“I think one of the most valuable lessons I learned from Local Leaders is that if there’s a will, there’s a way,” says Paulina Umansky, senior graduate from Amador. “If you had asked me two years ago if I could even imagine that, before graduating, I would have helped start recycling in the school district or presented to CalRecycle, I would have thought it was crazy. But the hard work and dedication of our club and our advisor have proven that even the most far-fetched goals can become a reality.”