Kim Garcia is a senior at Innovations High School in Reno, Nevada and an ACE Action Fellow.
Last week, my classmate Oscar Garcia and I traveled to Sacramento to testify to the EPA about clean air. The EPA has proposed lowering the current ozone standard of 75 ppb (that’s parts per billion) down to 65-70 ppb. Oscar and I were two of many people who spoke in favor of the strongest possible standard of 60 ppb. After we testified, we also had a chance to speak at a rally for clean air held by the Sierra Club in Cesar Chavez Park, across the street from the EPA headquarters.
Being a part of this experience was probably my biggest accomplishment so far. I have never felt so empowered. Speaking in front of the EPA was somewhat scary but overall I felt like I got them to listen to everything I said about my friend Janessa who has asthma and also about what we have accomplished with Idle Free Schools. I am proud to say that I left Sacramento feeling as if I was a role model because I stepped up and spoke not just for myself but on behalf of my school, community, and country.
Seeing other people support the same issue I did made me feel that I wasn’t alone. Listening to the people that were against stronger ozone standards, like the American Chemistry Council, made me want to get up there and show them that even though I’m only in high school, I am just as capable of standing up for my beliefs just as they are.
Now that I overcame my fear of public speaking and spoke right to the EPA, I feel like I have more confidence to speak up for what I believe in. The environmental field just might be what I want to explore as a career because of this.
I also learned that I really do have a lot of potential as a young woman. People have always put me down and told me I would never be capable of doing something big. I got to prove to myself and those who doubted me, there is something amazing in me. I am no longer the same person I was before. I can talk with confidence and no one can tell me otherwise. This experience made me realize that I am capable of doing anything if I believe in it and most importantly, in myself.