From environmentalist Greta Thunberg to feminist Malala Yousafzai and even Columbia’s own Emma Winter, who marched at the Boone County Courthouse in fall 2019 to raise awareness about global warming, young activists far and wide have been taking a stand. Kids all over Columbia are making their voices heard about the causes they are passionate about.
Educating for the environment
In fall 2019, Asia Smith, 17, founded and became president of her high school’s Battle Environmental Protection Agency. She says she focuses on educating her classmates about climate change and environmental issues.
Regular BEPA meeting activities include sharing tips on how to conserve resources at home and in the classroom, project planning for planting trees and quizzes that allow members to measure their carbon footprints.
Promoting indigenous inclusion
Upon coming to MU from Pueblo of Isleta, an unincorporated native community in New Mexico, Ryder Jiron says he was disappointed by the lack of community among Native American students. So, he joined Four Directions. He was determined to grow the organization at MU and to make the campus more indigenous friendly, Jiron says.
Now president of the club, Jiron says Four Directions’ mission has always been threefold: to provide community, to advocate for native students on campus and to educate others about Native American history. The club also provides a means of unifying native students. “I can finally name more than 10 native students that live on campus,” he says.
Tackling food waste
Last school year, Columbia Public Schools joined a national recycling competition and encouraged students throughout the district to take initiative.
Kerry Poage’s fifth-grade class at Grant Elementary School focused on a specific question: “How can we reduce food waste in our school?” Poage says. The class teamed up with the city to conduct a waste audit during lunch. In one day, they discovered the school had accumulated 224 pounds of trash, with 114 of those pounds being food waste. “It really concerned my students because Grant is one of the smallest schools in Columbia,” Poage says.
Poage’s class wrote several letters to the city and petitioned for Grant Elementary to start a recycling club called the Green Team. The class also made waste-free lunch flyers and composting displays. At the end of the yearlong project, Grant Elementary reduced its food waste to 63 pounds per day.
Protesting gun violence
Kewpies Demand Action is a local chapter of Students Demand Action, which is a national student activist group rallying for the elimination of gun violence through common-sense solutions while still protecting the Second Amendment.
Lindsey Oberle, 17, has been a member of Hickman High School’s chapter since it formed in 2018. Every year, the group goes to the state Capitol to protest for gun sense on Advocacy Day on Feb. 26. Oberle says protesting can sometimes make her feel powerless when lawmakers don’t seem to be listening, but it can be invigorating when other Demand Action groups come together.
Advocating for life
Members of the Tolton Catholic High School’s Pro-Life Club participate in March For Life in Washington, D.C.; volunteer at My Life Clinic, a nonprofit medical clinic in Columbia offering help to pregnant women; and pray outside of Columbia’s Planned Parenthood. While others might protest outside of Planned Parenthood, President Ashley Kippes, 18, says the club prays in support of women. “Women that go there and see others praying outside, they know we’re there for them and not trying to go against them,” she says.