Message From the Director

This year, we’ve seen a proliferation of federal funding that in the coming months will be directed towards addressing climate change. Both the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will advance historic investments in confronting climate change and building America’s clean energy economy. This is cause for tremendous celebration, as funding like this creates important incentives for clean energy and equity-centered environmental investments. Building on regular engagement with EJ leaders from across the country, the IRA package includes over $60 billion in environmental justice priorities to drive community-led projects in disadvantaged communities.

Beyond federal funding, however, we must acknowledge a less-heralded but essential part of the effort to combat climate change: people. Or, more precisely, a new generation of climate leaders. Without people to supercharge the transition to clean energy, increase community resilience, and advance environmental justice, we’ll face the worst, irreversible impacts of this crisis. MarinSEL is dedicated to building these climate leaders.

At MarinSEL, students are well-positioned to confront today’s climate crisis. They are challenged every day, whether it’s applying environmental concepts in environmental engineering or launching and running a sustainable business. I am especially excited about a comment from the Sustainability Director of a national consulting firm, who has come in to speak with our students every year. She reflected that she has never seen as many businesses really driving social equity in creative and unique ways, and that she has noticed the growth each year. Every day, I notice students developing bold visions of tackling the climate crisis with the urgency that science demands, while prioritizing frontline communities.

In order to confront climate change and avoid the worst, irreversible impacts of this crisis we need climate leaders––and not just because a crisis is looming, but also because hope is present. Hope exists in new funding, innovative solutions, and global support. But it also exists in places like MarinSEL, where students are developing the skills necessary to drive change.

MarinSEL Leadership Retreat

By Jessa Dunn (Class of 2025)

Leadership Retreat 2022

Every year, before school begins, all of the MSEL students go on a two-day retreat to bond as a class and as a community. This year, we went to the YMCA Camp at Jones Gulch, west of San Jose. We woke up early, met at the school, and after greeting our friends following a summer apart, we got into cars and drove to the retreat. It was a beautiful, serene location with towering redwoods, firs, and oak trees. Once everyone arrived, we split into our grade levels and began our activities. There was no cell service, so we could spend all our time together without distractions. From blindfolded trust games to archery to scavenger hunts that led us all over the camp, we really started to bond with our classes. Some of the highlights included a morning hike, where a guide taught us about the ancient trees that grow in the valley, and the ropes course, which required the Four C’s (Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Collaboration) to complete all the activities. Nearly everyone agreed that the ropes course was the most fun and educational activity!

Additionally, we had the opportunity to be mentored by older students and mentor the younger classes ourselves. During our breaks and downtime, we played basketball, gaga ball, and four square and got to know our classmates and teachers better. Meal times were especially fun (all the students ate in one big dining hall), and the food was excellent. And, of course, one of the most important traditions is the class songs. Each grade creates an original song, often a parody, representing their class and the MarinSEL experience. We present them to the parents and other classes at the end of the second day, ending the retreat with a bang. Overall the retreat was fun, educational, and a great bonding experience!

Teacher Spotlight on Karen Madden

By Sophia Smulewitz (Class of 2023)

Karen Madden is the new Lead Teacher for the MarinSEL program. In this role, she teaches three MarinSEL classes, coordinates various aspects of the program, and spearheads the deep collaboration with the other TLHS teachers in the program. She has over 17 years of teaching experience, and while she is new to this role, she is no stranger to the MarinSEL program or the Terra Linda community.

Karen grew up in San Rafael Park and earned her B.S. in Human Development from UC Davis. During the pandemic, Karen went back to school at San Francisco State University, where she earned her Masters Degree in Educational Leadership as well as her Administrative Credential. She finds that the MarinSEL Lead Teacher role is the perfect balance of teaching and leading, and she is thrilled to be a part of the Trojan family.

Karen met her husband Ryan at Marin Catholic, and they have been married for 22 years. They live in Marinwood, and are the proud parents of Molly (Cal Poly 2024), Allie (Cal Poly 2026), and Sean (MarinSEL 2024).

Over the years, Karen has spent time volunteering for the Terra Linda Women’s Swim and Water Polo teams, Marinwood Waterdevils, St. Patrick’s Parish, CYO, and the Miller Creek School District.

In her spare time, Karen enjoys spending time with friends and family, hiking the trails of Marin, reading, cooking, and entertaining. Karen is an avid Bay Area sports fan, and on most days, you can find her walking her retired Guide Dog breeder, Karina, on the streets of Marinwood.

Q: How long have you been involved with MarinSEL?

A: This is my first year teaching in the program, but I have been a parent volunteer in the program for seven years.

Q: What attracted you to the MarinSEL program?

A: All three of our children have been in MarinSEL; our two daughters graduated in 2020, and 2022, and our son, Sean, is currently a Junior. I have been able to see firsthand how this program empowers students, and provides them with unique opportunities not otherwise encountered in high school. I really enjoy mentoring students and encouraging them to set high standards for themselves. I also really believe in project-based learning and the importance of preparing students for the real world, not just the next class or the next grade level. MarinSEL students have the opportunity to learn real-life skills through participation in LEAD projects, internships, volunteer opportunities, and more. So, when I was contacted about being the Lead Teacher for this program, I jumped at the opportunity.

Q: What are some of your favorite aspects of the MarinSEL program?

A: There are so many aspects of the program that I love, but if I had to choose some favorites, three stand out. First, I appreciate how MarinSEL places an emphasis on reflection and continual learning. Over the course of the program, students collect work in a portfolio that reflects how they have grown and changed over time, and students are constantly being challenged to think critically about how they can improve. Second, I really believe in the project-based approach to learning. When students have more agency in what they are learning, they are more engaged, and this unleashes so much more creativity and inspiration. Furthermore, when these projects are connected to what is actually going on in the local community, students are able to see how they can become changemakers in our complicated world. Third, I love how our students give back to their communities by volunteering. All MarinSEL students are asked to volunteer 10 hours a year, and during senior year, they volunteer over 100 hours a year through their internships. It is vital to teach future generations the importance of giving back to their communities, and volunteering is the perfect vehicle to impart this important lesson.

Q: Have you seen patterns in what makes students successful during their time at MSEL?

A: Yes. Students who are disciplined and gritty tend to be more successful in the program. In addition, students who are brave, and willing to take risks in their learning are the ones that can most successfully overcome obstacles and challenges. We are preparing students for a world that is changing at such a rapid pace. Students need to be agile and flexible; they need to expect the unexpected. The more we can teach our students to be resilient and to frame everything as a learning opportunity, the better we will be preparing them for the challenges of the 21st century.

Q: What advice would you give to parents of MSEL students?

A: I would advise parents to take a step back and to let their students take the lead. The more we try to pave the path or smooth the road for our children, the less likely they are to blaze a new trail on their own. In addition, I would advise parents to speak less and listen more to their children. Finally, I would advise parents to let their children know that no matter what, they will always be there to love and support them.

Q: Who inspires you in the fight for the environment?

A: I love spending time in our National Parks, and I am inspired by their idea of preserving our lands for future generations. I am also inspired by how indigenous cultures revere the interconnectedness of people and the land. When I see how our MarinSEL students plan their sustainable businesses, work on LEAD projects, and educate people about the importance of living sustainably now, in order to preserve our planet for future generations, I feel confident that our future is in good hands.

Alumni Corner: Ryann Rosenstein (Class of 2022)

By Sophia Smulewitz (Class of 2023)

Ryann Rosenstein graduated from the MarinSEL program in 2022, and is now a first year at San Diego State University, majoring in film.

Q: What made you want to major in film?

A: I actually figured out that I wanted to major in film through MarinSEL. We were learning about animal agriculture in Mrs. Newton’s class my 9th grade year, and I asked her if there was anything she would recommend to learn more about the subject. She told me to watch the film What the Health? I had always known I wanted to incorporate helping the environment into my career but I didn’t know how. I had also always been interested in film, but had never seriously considered it as a career path. However, after I watched the film, I realized that I could combine these two passions and make environmentally focused documentaries. This led me to major in film, and I plan to declare a minor in either Environmental Studies or Sustainability in the near future.

Q: How do you think MarinSEL prepared you for college?

A: MarinSEL gave me so many incredible activities to put on my college applications to show I was a committed, hard-working student. The opportunity MarinSEL provides to have an internship was also great preparation for college, as I was able to intern at the Community Media Center of Marin, directly relating to my major. In addition, MarinSEL provided us with seminars regarding college counseling, contacts for help with anything we needed regarding college applications, and so many people that could write letters of recommendation for us which all really helped make the college application process smoother.

Q: Which 4C has been the most helpful in college?

A: I think that the 4C that has been the most helpful in college so far is communication. Communication is vital to basically everything in college. Whether it’s talking to your professors about the material in class, talking to your classmates about exams or projects, talking to advisors about your schedule and plans for the future, or even just talking with your roommates about how there’s not enough space in the mini fridge, communication is the most important thing to be comfortable with in order to succeed in college both academically and socially.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give current high schoolers about their future?

A: Do what you are passionate about. It’s so easy to get caught up in the societal pressures of majoring in something that will guarantee a good job or going to the best college for your major, but in the end, your happiness is what’s most important. I had the option to go to a school that offered a BFA in film in upstate New York or to go to a school that offered a BS in film in San Diego. I knew that I wouldn’t be happy living in upstate New York, so I chose to go to San Diego because that is where I knew I would thrive. If you’re not happy with your major or where you are going to school, you are not going to be able to enjoy your time there or reach your fullest potential. Overall, I think it’s most important to follow your passion and go where you will be happiest so you can be your best self.

MarinSEL 9th Grade LEAD Project – Painted Bins

By Josie Campo (Class of 2026)

For the fall semester of MarinSEL, I’m in a LEAD (Leadership in Environmental Action Development) project group called Painted Bins that is doing a project about diverting food waste and composting. I’ve learned a lot about the effects of food waste on the ecosystem and the advantages of composting. Writing a research paper about my topic was the first task I finished for the project. Each member of my group was given a different subject to write about, and mine was the connection between food waste and climate change. In my essay, I described how food waste produces methane, which warms the planet. I also outlined how composting produces fertilizer and lowers methane emissions, both of which are good for the environment. After our group finished our research papers, we each selected the key takeaways from our essays for a slideshow. We presented the slideshow to the class, and then made a project proposal slideshow. This included our goals, tasks, challenges, and finances for our project. The timeline we created as part of this proposal is guiding us to our project goals.

Our main goal for this semester is to place compost bins on the TL campus. As of right now, we are focusing on advocating for composting. We are creating an Instagram account and a website to build awareness about the importance of composting. By educating our fellow students, we hope to inspire people to sort their food from the trash. Once compost bins are put on campus, students will be able to sort their plastic and food into the designated bins and create less waste on Terra Linda’s campus. At the end, the compost will be taken to the Marin Sanitary service where they will empty our bins and take our compost.

Junior Year: Challenging, But Rewarding

By Olivia Brewster (Class of 2024)

People always say, “junior year is the hardest” of all four years of high school, which most people take to mean that junior year is the “worst” year. This is entirely untrue. I’m a junior in MarinSEL, and while this year has been difficult, it has also been very rewarding. This year, I am taking the MarinSEL Sustainable Enterprise class, AP United States History (commonly referred to as APUSH) and Engineering Technology. Many of my classmates also take additional AP classes, work on the weekends, and play sports. I do too. And it’s worth the effort we put in. For example, over the past month in our Engineering class, we have worked on making towers out of paper straws and Elmer’s glue, which were then tested and crushed when we added weight to them. In the Sustainable Enterprise class, we have all worked on planning and pitching our sustainable businesses, which range from hot sauces to guitar picks. As a student-athlete, I have found that volleyball gives me the chance to set aside my academic responsibilities and fully enjoy my high school years. We are all learning how to work hard, take breaks, and make the most of our opportunities.

Kids Cooking for Life – 12th Grade Internship

By Melina Drazien (Class of 2023)

I hear the bustle of excited children outside the door as the rich aromas of boiling pasta and searing vegetables fill the room. A young girl jumps into my arms while the rest of the children scatter eagerly across the classroom. The EXPO marker squeaks across the whiteboard, spelling out the recipe for the day, leaving a wide grin on the face of every child.

I am an intern at Kids Cooking for Life, a non-profit organization with a mission to teach children in low-income areas about how food, culture, and nutrition can intersect. Kids Cooking for Life empowers kids to develop a new hobby of cooking while learning a discernible lifelong skill. My role is to be a leader in the classroom and to make sure the kids feel included and passionate about cooking.

Each Monday, I set up the classroom, prepare the ingredients, and supervise the children throughout the cooking lesson. Along with these hard skills, I’ve learned softer skills, like collaboration and communication with the children. Working with fourth graders isn’t as easy as it may seem, and many of them often get off task. I’ve faced challenges in attempting to rein in all the children, while also teaching about the dishes they are making. I’ve learned it’s important to lay the ground rules in order to create an environment that is safe and fun.

Over the past three months of my internship, I’ve been teaching the children about how food, culture, and nutrition relate to each other. After the first day of my internship, I immediately fell in love with the group of kids and the class as a whole. Many of the fourth graders are first-generation immigrants, and students of low-income families. It has been so inspiring to see the passion within them as they learn the ropes of culinary skills and the culture within the dishes they make.

Beyond the classroom, I’ve started creating a public relations list for Kids Cooking for Life in each county they teach in. This work has given me insight into what goes on behind the scenes of non-profit organizations and how they need to gain visibility in addition to teaching weekly classes.

My internship has opened my eyes to the joys of working with motivated children and sparked an interest in cooking as well. The biggest reward of my day is working with these kids and they never fail to bring joy into my life.


Give Local this GivingTuesday!

GivingTuesday is a global day of generosity that will take place on November 29, 2022. Created in 2012, GivingTuesday is a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity. Join us and the millions of people around the globe this GivingTuesday by supporting local! Give a gift to support MarinSEL students this GivingTuesday. Thank you for supporting our emerging student leaders!

Contribute to Fund-a-Need for GivingTuesday!

Admissions Reminder

Applications to MarinSEL are now being accepted!

Environmentally-focused, equity-forward, and project-based, MarinSEL is an innovative program model that empowers students to engage with the community, provides them with opportunities to increase ownership of their learning, and actively apply skills of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity to drive sustainability solutions. MarinSEL strives to provide students with an exemplary college preparatory experience combining rigorous project-based learning in the context of solving real-world problems related to the environment. If students are interested in exploring their relationship with the natural world, growing as a young advocate, and creating change with and within this community, we invite them to learn more about MarinSEL.

Applications will be accepted until January 21st, 2023. Upon applying, applicants will choose a date to join a mandatory Exploration Day which gives prospective students a chance to explore and demonstrate interest in the MarinSEL program through a variety of group activities, as well as an oral interview.

For a deeper dive into more information about the program and to see the Admissions Timeline, use this link.

Fill out the MarinSEL Application here.

If you have any questions, please email


We look forward to seeing this year’s applications!