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Going green: World Affairs Seminar encourages high schoolers’ involvement in climate change discussion

By Staff | Oct 25, 2019

One hundred twenty students from the six high schools in the Eastern Panhandle congregated together to learn and talk about climate change in Shepherd University's Storer Ballroom on Oct. 17. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — One hundred twenty high school students, representing the six high schools in Berkeley and Jefferson counties, munched on sandwiches in between talking with each other about climate change, during the lunch break at the World Affairs Seminar in Shepherd University’s Storer Ballroom on Oct. 17.

The students quickly finished up their food, and settled in for the rest of the seminar, which ended with a question and answer session on “Policy and Strategy Options and Challenges of Addressing Climate Change Impacts.”

“The data is frightening,” said Joe Richardson, a farmer from Frederick, Md. who has worked with several climate change initiatives.

Richardson was one of the speakers at the event, along with Director of Climate Science for the Union of Concerned Scientists Brenda Ekwurze, who was excited to hear potential climate change solutions students were coming up with during the event.

“We need fresh ideas from these students. Some of these (current) ideas date back to the old ways, including harnessing the power of the sun and the wind. Students can think of ways to use elements that are abundant [to combat climate change,]” Ekwurze said.

Other seminar speakers included: SU Assistant Professor of Political Science and Global Studies Samuel Greene; International Food Policy Research Institution Research Fellow Tim Thomas; Country Engagement Specialist of the NDC Partnership World Resources Institute Catherine Martini; and moderator Richard Anson, who is the co-chair of the International Services Committee of the Rotary Club of Shepherdstown.

The annual seminar has been coordinated and sponsored by the Shepherdstown and Martinsburg Rotary Clubs for over 20 years, and was moved last year to its location at Shepherd University.

“We’re not really trying to promote them to think one way or another — we’re just trying to get the conversation started,” said District Governor of District 73-60 Dana Orsini about the topic. “We do a lot to encourage students’ education. We have a project where we give dictionaries and thesauruses to elementary kids in school. We try to engage kids at every level of school. We want to engage them in any positive way that we can.”

The partnership between the Rotary clubs and the university has also given university students opportunities to develop their leadership abilities.

“We tried to create an event to help the kids here understand about what we do with the Model United Nations. We have kids from across the nation to come together and come up with an answer to a big problem — a lot like the United Nations,” said Model United Nations representative and senior political science and legal studies major Kelly Stout. “The students today were similarly expected to come up with an answer on how to reduce carbon omissions. It’s very rewarding to see all of these students working together toward a unified goal.”