This is a guest blog post by Celeste Tinajero, a former ACE Action Fellow from Reno, NV.
I first joined the green club, the Reed High Ecowarriors, at my school in my sophomore year of high school after Rebecca from ACE helped my brother start a club. He was inspired by the ACE Assembly and was determined to get students together and make the change we needed as a community. We won a total of $15,500 for our school in the next two years as a club and made changes to our school that will be there forever -- green school bathrooms and a water-bottle refilling station are just two examples. I found my passion and knew that graduating high school did not mean that my work in sustainability would change.
Shortly after I graduated in 2013, I was lucky to be presented with the opportunity to take the role of Black Rock Solar’s Education Intern. Black Rock Solar is a local non-profit in Reno, NV whose goal is to donate solar arrays to non-profits, schools, churches, or other organizations that cannot normally afford the up-front cost for solar energy. I helped create the lesson plans and modified existing lesson plans on how solar energy works and the benefits of renewable energy. In my 10 months with BRS, I was lucky enough to visit several K-12 schools in the community and teach hundreds of students about renewable energy.
Meanwhile, I was attending Truckee Meadows Community College with the focus of Primary Education. It had always been a dream of mine to be a teacher and my dream was fulfilled right after a received a high school diploma. In my second year of college, I decided to change my major to Environmental Science. I love teaching and I believe that education is the best solution, but ultimately, my heart is in studying the environment and learning what I can do to make a difference. With Environmental Science being so all-encompassing, I realized that I could eventually find my focus and push all of my energy towards it. Once I learned that dreams really do come true if I worked hard enough, I decided to dream bigger.
With the encouragement and referral of Rebecca from ACE, I applied for a fellowship called Young People For (YP4). Young People For is a program that identifies, engages, and empowers the newest generation of progressive leaders to create lasting change in their communities. I was accepted into the program and in just a couple of months, we as new progressive leaders in our community, have to create a “blueprint”-- a step-by-step plan of a change we want to see in our community.
I decided to take on a Plastic Bag Ban in Reno. Thankfully, I have several connections within the community because of all the work and organizations I was able to work closely with through and after high school. I have a group of supporters already standing by me to help me implement a city-wide plastic bag ban that will drastically improve our environment in Reno. Right now, there are trashed plastic bags blowing all around our city, in empty lots and all along the beautiful Truckee River. It drives me crazy. Reno is such a beautiful city and it could be even more so without plastic waste all over.
Because of my Bag the Ban campaign, Rebecca and I met with KTMB, Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful, a local non-profit, to see if they would be interested in supporting my campaign. Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful is an amazing organization that annually holds community clean-ups, Christmas Tree Recycling, along with an education program in our community’s schools. At the end of the meeting, KTMB offered me a job, running the Ban the Bag campaign with them! I applied to be an Americorp Vista with KTMB and will find out at the end of this month whether or not I got the position.
After I obtain my degree, I hope to see more of the world by joining the Peace Corps and putting my passion for learning, teaching and sustainability somewhere that can benefit from my help.
None of these experiences would have happened without the help of ACE and especially Rebecca. She continues to push and encourage me and remind me why I love this field even when it gets hectic and stressful. There is no other path I would have rather taken. I finally know that this is what I was put on the earth to do. I feel that I have so much to give to the world and I could never expect anything back but the valuable experiences I have already been through and have yet to learn. I couldn’t be luckier.