Hitchcock Youth Gallery

Youth Voices for the Planet: South Hadley High School Students Speak Out about Climate Change

On exhibit through December, 2019.

This article, Saving the Earth One Step at a Time — Climate Strike Protest by South Hadley High School Students, was originally published in the Town Reminder.

By Dalton Zbierski Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – A local initiative saw several dozen South Hadley High School students step beyond the walls of the school last week when they staged a walkout last Friday to protest climate change. The school group marched over a mile from the school to Town Hall to raise environmental awareness.“

Seniors Justin Taylor and Emma Rahilly led the Climate March that ventured from the high school to Town Hall last Friday. Turley Publications Staff Photos by Dalton Zbiersk

A few students came to see me several days ago and wanted to know how they could organize a walkout,” said Principal Diana Bonneville. “They didn’t want to get in trouble and wanted the school’s support so we worked together to come up with the best way to make this happen with the most number of students participating. We’ve got some great leaders here and I’m proud to be their principal.”

Senior Justin Taylor led the charge that afternoon. Stationed at the front of the group, he held a that read “Our Planet Matters” and emphasized the initiative’s long-term significance. Taylor discussed what motivated so many students to leave school.

Students stand proudly following their march.

“This is in coordination with a girl in Sweden named Greta Thuberg; she’s been staging walkouts to the Swedish Parliament every Friday,” he said. “Basically, we’re trying to raise awareness for climate change and com-batting it. The administration has been incredibly under-standing and supportive. The message is that is that your kids care. Even if it’s not your future, it’s your kids’ future and they care.”

A police escort led the demonstration as it journeyed from the the high school on Newton Street to the Town Offices on Main Street. There, a rally was held to stress the importance of preserving and protecting the environ-ment for future generations.

“It’s not just the Earth we’re saving; we’re keeping our home. We want to send the message that you have power to make change as kids. If there’s enough of us, then the older generation will listen. The environment is all we have; we only have one Earth, and it doesn’t make sense not to fight for it,” said junior Victor Omojola.

Seniors [L to R] McKenzie Butzer, Laney Kleszczynski, Liam Joi, Aiden Sullivan, Chase Corriveau, Liam Dawson each Collin Lacombe stressed the importance of protecting the environment.

Omojola has been a member of the school’s Environ-mental Club for two years. While the group has coor-dinated a number of similar efforts, he considered last Friday’s to be its most defining. Standing alongside him for support was sophomore Macey Moriarty; she agreed with each point Omojola made.

“You can’t leave Earth; there’s nowhere to go,” she said. “We have to take care of what we’ve got. To those who think that one person can’t do anything, that’s to-tally false. If one person does something, others follow; with this you should be a follower. It’s so important be-cause if no one stands up we’ll get nowhere.”

Bonneville was moved by what she witnessed. She applauded the action taken by her students and is op-timistic that they will positively influence the younger generation.

“In the elementary and the middle schools they look up to these kids as role models so it’s absolutely imper-ative that we set an example. This Earth is their future, and if we don’t do something now it will be too late,” said Bonneville.

Do you care about nature and the environment? Are you a young person in our community who is working in your school, neighborhood, town, family, and beyond to guide and influence environmental and climate issues? Learn more and contribute your voice to Hitchcock Center’s Youth Voices for the Environment Program.

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Hitchcock Center for the Environment