Director’s Message

As another year wraps to a close, I am proud of all that the MarinSEL students and community were able to accomplish this year. First, I want to say kudos to Ray McClintock on completing his first year as the MarinSEL Lead Teacher! We are lucky to have you and looking forward to many more successful years to come. In the classroom, I am also proud to say that we were able to offer college credit to Seminar 1 and 2 for the first time this year. And will continue to work towards offering more college credits each year including Sustainable Enterprise next year! We’re still tallying the metrics from the LEAD projects this year, but so far, students educated over 900 people on their respective environmental topics, distributed 350 samples of non-toxic cosmetic products, and reduced water consumption in the garden by 280 gallons per day. Additionally, students wrote grants and raised over $6,000 to go toward LEAD projects and the Greenhouse. The Sustainable Enterprises continue to impress me every year. This year, the juniors sold over $650 worth of product! And our seniors completed their senior internships logging over 2,880 hours across 18 organizations.

Thank you to all the community members, parents, and teachers who made this year possible. And a special thank you to David Tow and Randy Baker, who won’t be teaching a MarinSEL class next year, but we know they will continue to provide amazing education. Thank you so much for your hard work and dedication to MarinSEL, you will be missed!

Additionally, as we are sending JoAnna off to grad school at American University to pursue a masters in Global Environmental Policy, we welcome the new MarinSEL Fellow Naomi Asimow. Naomi is an Oakland native happy to return back to the Bay after spending four years in Boston, where she studied chemical biology and environmental science at Harvard. Welcome to the team Naomi! 

Best regards,



Class of 2018

Congratulations to the Class of 2018! Check out where they are heading after MarinSEL here.

Senior Internships

By: Ronelle Scardina 

The Marin School of Environmental Leadership (MarinSEL) offers a Senior Internship Program with local businesses using sustainable business practices.

Senior spotlight – Ben Pearson on his internship at the San Rafael Airport 

As a senior, Ben Pearson is fully immersed in his internship at the San Rafael Airport. There he assists the head manager with projects from LEED certification of their new property to managing the data that comes from their solar plants. He primarily does research and data analysis, and at times he also contributes to the company’s digital by managing the website update.

When asked about his experience it is obvious that he is learning valuable old school professional skills, including communication, networking and relationship building. According to Ben, “One of the most valuable lessons learned is the importance of calling someone. When I was researching LEED or other projects, talking to someone proficient in the field is significantly faster and more thorough than independent research. Plus, this position gives me a better idea of what life outside of school will feel like.”

His advice to future seniors, “there are plenty of internships and there is something different for everyone. So just a little bit of preparation will go a long way in finding out if one internship is right for you.”

How does it work?

Beginning in March of junior year, students review potential internship opportunities. Students apply through MarinSEL with a cover letter and resume. After employers review the student applications, MarinSEL works with the junior class to schedule interviews. During April, the student internship placements will be made. Once selections are made, employers work with the intern to finalize the scope of work as they get started in the fall of their senior year. 

Every week, students are required to work a minimum of four hours, totaling 60 hours per semester or 120 hours for the entire school year. Throughout the internship, the employer serves as a mentor to guide the intern throughout the year. Ideally, students will get hands-on experience and open their eyes to potential career opportunities.

Additionally, the MarinSEL Senior Internship Program includes a college-level course taught through Skyline College and College of Marin. The senior class meets once a week as a group at Terra Linda High School, taught by a College of Marin instructor. Since the Internship Program is administered through local community colleges, students have the option of earning college credit. The internship is co-managed by Skyline College and Strategic Energy Innovations. 

THANK YOU to our generous business partners

We appreciate our business partners who have taken time to do more than employ our seniors – they have been mentoring and guiding our seniors throughout the 2017-2018 school year. 

·      Agricultural Community Events

·      Community Media Center 

·      EDG Design

·      Educational Tall Ship

·      Environmental Action Committee of West Marin

·      Girls Garage

·      Global Student Embassy

·      Marin Clean Energy

·      Marin County Office of Education

·      Marin General Hospital

·      Marin Municipal Water District

·      Miller Creek Middle School

·      One Tam

·      San Rafael Airport

·      Strategic Energy Innovations

·      Vallecito Elementary School

·      Watershed Alliance of Marin

THANK YOU, we couldn’t do it without you!!!

Interested in offering an internship where you work?

MarinSEL students are capable and hungry to get started. If you are interested in making an investment in your community by mentoring an intern during the school year, please contact Petrut Ababei ( 

Business Leaders Mixer and Student Sustainable Enterprises

By: Liza Panfilova (Class of 2019)

During Junior year, MarinSEL students are challenged with developing their very own business plans. All businesses must follow the triple bottom line by incorporating environmental, social, and economic aspects at the base of their company and accompany that with financial forecast, product designs, and research. By the end of the first semester, seven businesses were chosen through a selective process led by a panel of local entrepreneurs and community partners. The creators of these businesses conducted interviews with the rest of their peers to select their team of designers, marketers, and assistant administrators. After extensive product development, the juniors were ready to present their sustainable businesses at the Annual MarinSEL Business Leaders Mixer on March 15 at the EDG office in Hamilton Landing. 

Here are this year’s impressive sustainable enterprises! 

Bee Baths 

Bee Baths, envisioned by Elly Blatcher and team members Myla Gupta, Charles Smith, Ben Wagner, and Ana Ostrovsky, creates extraordinary sanctuaries for bees to rest and get the water they need safely. One of the biggest causes of bee deaths is actually from drowning, such as landing in swimming pools and not being able to get out. A bee bath is the perfect solution for these friendly pollinators! The team experimented with a few prototypes and finally decided to create their beautiful baths by carving out shallow grooves in reclaimed tree stumps. The baths will make a beautiful and environmentally conscious addition to any garden. Not only will the bees get the nutrients they need, they will also be able to pollinate garden flowers and keep them growing. The group hopes to spread awareness about the declining bee population and is even collaborating with local bee sanctuaries to learn more and spread the message. 

Don’t Bug Me 

Don’t Bug Me created by Ben Kanter and supported by team members Mica Smith, Sawyer Taylor, and Jackson Darby is a new type of insect repellent that is safe for humans and critters, while still getting the job done! The spray uses natural plants and essential oils to create a smell that wards off bees and other pesky insects without killing or compromising their health. Don’t Bug Me aims to reduce the amount of Deet and harmful chemicals accumulating in the air by providing safe and effective alternatives. The founder, Ben Kanter, has been using this secret formula for many years to help keep bees away as he is highly allergic, he even conducted an experiment that shows how the spray sends bees flying away. The business is committed to donating 10% of their profits to the nonprofit organization Malaria No More and is looking into producing their own essential oils in the near future. 

Happy Hummers 

Happy Hummers envisioned by Cameron Evans, Liza Panfilova, Hayden Nuyens, and Julian Olson creates hummingbird feeders out of recycled wine bottles. Marin Counties hummingbird population has been decreasing 3% every year due to the drought, however, now that native plants are thriving again these natural pollinators need to be brought back. The group decided to use wine bottles donated from local families and winos to help decrease waste in the landfill. Their goal is to educate the community on the importance of hummingbirds and help bring them back. The trickiest part is to get the first hummingbird to come to the feeder, but once it finds the food many more birds will come flying in. Happy Hummers also donates one feeder for every five sold to local retirement homes and schools to help spread awareness about hummingbirds and the joy of nature. 

Marin Tea 

Marin Tea created by Sophie Yoakum and her team, Noelle Habashi, Max Manwaring-Mueller, Miranda Craig, and Luke Berkley, produces handcrafted herbal tea blends and drinks. All products are made from plants native to Marin County and are grown locally. Marin Tea has delicious blends such as mint, fennel, lavender, and rosemary. All their teas are loose leaf so there is no waste from tea bags or packaging. Most store-bought teas contain leaves that come from overseas, which means they have large green footprints and are not always fresh. Marin Tea aims to stop this practice by showing that there are delicious tea blends to be found right in our backyards. The team has created an online presence where they share beautiful, professionally made photographs and videos of their product. 

Memory Box 

Memory Box is designed by Ally Teper, Jack Irish, Evan Gabbard, and Erin McDaniel. The company creates aesthetic wooden boxes for storing memorabilia such as photographs, movie tickets, and various trinkets. They can even produce custom designs with a laser cutter or paint! All boxes are made from recycled wood, which comes from the wood that construction companies no longer use, therefore reducing the amount of wood being sent to the landfill to rot, as well as prevents new wood from being cut down. A part of their proceeds will be given to a Dementia Association in order to help continue research on memory deteriorating conditions.  

Tasty Bug 

Tasty Bug was developed by Ava Abeck, Cole Parker, Jillian Hickey, and Gracen DeRaffele. The company creates flour with a special ingredient… crickets! The team’s main goal is to help remove the ick factory from entomophagy (the practice of eating insects) and encourage consumers to try new kinds of foods. Crickets have an abundance of benefits: they are protein rich, take up little land and water to raise compared to other meats, have a long shelf life, and can even help combat the food crisis. This makes them a perfect, affordable alternative to factory raised meats and an environmental win.  After many experiments the company has created an ideal recipe of cricket flour. Tasty Bug is spreading their message by presenting at local food festivals and events, even handing out tasty sample cookies made from their cricket flour! 

Velvet Face Masks 

Velvet Face Masks lead by Gia Asher and her team, Claire Barbiero, Joe Huang, and Owen Bartolf, produce natural face masks made out of simple ingredients such as yogurt, honey, and fruits. These masks are a great alternative to the name brand options which are harsh on the skin, can lead to breakouts, contain unrecognizable ingredients, and oftentimes are very overpriced. Velvet’s masks are plastic and pollution free, any leftovers are biodegradable, and all packaging is zero waste as the glass containers can be brought back to the company to be refilled. Founder Gia Asher has been using this recipe for many years, and she claims its her secret to blemish free skin! The Velvet team is additionally each donating an hour of their time weekly to volunteer at a local food bank. 

My MarinSEL Experience

By: Ben Kanter (Class of 2019)

When I joined MarinSEL, I was particularly keen on protecting the environment, but I didn’t have many other interests. Yes, I was only a freshman, but I still thought about what career path I should follow. Initially, I envisioned myself becoming a stock market guru. On this whim, I opened a mock portfolio and actually performed quite well for a novice investor. I soon grew disinterested in this field of investment, though – something about sifting through Security and Exchange Commission’s great volume of information and reading staples such as The Intelligent Investor proved to be quite the bore.

As I progressed through MarinSEL, the environment became increasingly important to me. We learned about both the local environmental issues such as greenhouse gas emissions in Marin County and the worldwide concerns such as the effect of climate change on the impoverished citizens of third-world countries. The MarinSEL program guided our class to address environmental issues through LEAD Projects. I first wondered why these projects focused only on local issues, but I soon realized that 1) we have to start somewhere and 2) they are meant to gear us with the tools needed later to succeed. It is on ourselves to address the larger, global issues – something MarinSEL is preparing us for. 

I could not have come to this revelation without MarinSEL – let alone the tools I acquired through our LEAD Projects. As LEAD Projects came to a close, I understood that it was now my job to apply what I learned to future endeavors. 

I remember first learning about green infrastructure in sophomore year in Cradle to Cradle. At the time, I was searching for a career path that was like a large-scale LEAD project (addressing worldwide matters). Green Infrastructure piqued my interest, but I was not yet fully convinced that it was the right path for me. So, going into Junior year, I decided to intern for my dad’s real estate investment company. Coincidentally, it’s renovating its largest property, Parkmerced, all the while adhering to environmentally friendly practices and implementing green infrastructure. This is where my fascination for green infrastructure took off. 

The rest fell into place. To date, I’ve had an absolute blast with my Sustainable Enterprise. I look forward to studying International Business at Oxford over the summer (much of what I put on my application pertained to what I’ve accomplished in MarinSEL). In Senior year, I’m excited for my green internship. As far as continuing my own LEAD Project, I hope to build green infrastructure to accommodate India’s growing population when I’m an adult. I may have always been interested in protecting the environment, but MarinSEL is the catalyst that has provided so many opportunities for me. Without it, I’m not sure where I’d be; in all honesty, I’d probably still be confused freshman Ben.

Alumni Corner with Samantha McLaughlin (Class of 2015)

By: Noel E. Olson

This month, Alumni Corner caught up with Samantha McLaughlin from the inaugural MarinSEL Class of 2015 while she is in Spain.

MarinSEL: Please tell us where you are studying?

SM: I am currently studying abroad in Barcelona at the University of Pompeu Fabra for the semester. I am taking an intensive Spanish cours, as well as a few other general courses. I chose Spain because one of my goals is to become fluent in Spanish – I think this is a very important skill that will provide me iwth more opportunities in my future. While I am here, I have an exchange partner that I meet up with each week and practice my Spanish with, as well as help them with their English. I have had many opportunities to travel, including to Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, and Portland. So far, I am loving Spain! I also studied abrad at the University of Oxford in the summer of 2017, which was also an amazing experience!

MarinSEL: Where will you complete your degree? Why did you choose this college? 

SM: University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst). I chose UMass for a few reasons. Going into college I was interested in a few different things but didn’t know what I wanted to study yet, and UMass offered a lot of different options, as far as majors and programs. Furthermore, I had lived in San Rafael my whole life and wanted to experience a new environment.

MarinSEL: Please, tell us about your course of study?

SM: I am pursuing a dual degree in Economics and Sociology. (This is different than a double major, because rather than a combined degree I am getting two separate ones). I am also working towards a minor in Political Science and Linguistics.

MarinSEL: Have you joined or been involved in any campus-based clubs or movements? If so, how are they helping you grow?

SM: I am a member of a national co-ed service fraternity called Alpha Phi Omega (Kappa Omicron chapter). Outside of class and schoolwork, this is what I put most of my time into. Within this organization I have volunteered over 25 hours each semester through programs like Not Bread Alone, and JDRF. I have also held leadership roles including Historian, Social Media Chair, Ritual Chair, and my pledge class Service Vice President. I love this organization because it turns no one away and it runs on the guiding principles of “friendship, leadership, and service.” It has helped me get more involved in my community and continues to develop my skills as a leader. I am also a writing tutor in the UMass Writing Center. In order to get this job I had to take two honors level tutoring and theory courses and spend a semester as an intern, tutoring students on campus. Through this job I have the chance to work one on one with undergraduate, graduate, post-doc, staff, and faculty on anything from an outline to a thesis. I have spent over 130 hours doing this. I find this to be a very rewarding job, because it constantly challenges me and encourages me to produce better writing of my own.

MarinSEL: What skills from MarinSEL do you think prepared you for college?

SM: MarinSEL provided me with many valuable skills that helped me be prepared for and succeed in college. First of all, it has encouraged me to step up and take on leadership roles within the clubs and organizations I am a part of. I also think that some of the activities including applying to internships, presenting to a panel of business leaders, and creating a resume introduced me to valuable skills that have been essential in college. Furthermore, it has given me a network of business leaders, professionals, teachers, and classmates that I can go to for support. This has been very helpful to this day in college.

MarinSEL: Of your 4 years in MarinSEL, which project stands out as you favorite? (LEAD Project, Internship, Sustainable Business) Why?

SM: Although I loved being a business leader for my business Reclaimed Designs, I think getting the opportunity to have an internship was my favorite. Rather than applying to one of the organizations introduced to me by MarinSEL, I reached out to Clough Construction, a sustainable decking andfencing company, with another classmate, Nivie Oron. Deanne Clough has provided the MarinSEL engineering class with many materials and through this connection, we were able to come up with an outline for an internship. Throughout the year we created a presentation and used it to educate students, school boards, and consumers on sustainable forestry. We also worked with members of the Forest Stewardship Council and attended a town meeting and forest audit. In addition, we helped Clough Construction win the Acterra Award, a prestigious national forest stewardship award. Getting the opportunity to work with Deanne, a successful business woman, and creating change in the community was extremely rewarding. This is an example of one of the many times I was able to take the skills I learned in MarinSEL and use them to make a change in the community.

MarinSEL: Have you or would you consider expanding on or leapfrogging into another project like this? Why or why not?

SM: Although I am an economics and sociology major, MarinSEL has inspired me to look into studying the environment within my majors. For example, I took an environmental economics course last semester for which I got to interview public officials and community members in Marin County regarding the movement to go Deep Green. I was able to reach out to Cyane and Jesse Madsen to work with them on this project as well. I’m not currently involved in any club or organization like MarinSEL at the moment but it remains an interest of mine, especially as I start the process of applying to internships and jobs.         

MarinSEL: Is there anything you want to encourage the MarinSEL program to hang on to, change, and/or continue?

SM: I think the number of leadership opportunities MSEL students are provided with is really unique — from internships, to creating businesses, to making major changes on the Terra Linda campus and in the community. As a member of the first ever class of MarinSEL students, we often acted as the “Guinea Pigs.” However, I think all of the experiences, even the ones that were flawed, taught us important problem solving skills. It kind of became a joke that things wouldn’t go as expected, so we learned to adapt and come up with solutions to the problems we were faced with.

MarinSEL: Do you have any advice for current MarinSEL students?

SM: I would tell MarinSEL students to take advantage of the many opportunities that come their way. There are really so many chances to get involved and become a leader through MarinSEL. High school is the perfect time to get internships, work with local officials, network, and so on. I would also remind students not to forget to have fun in the process.

MarinSEL: Looking back, would you have done anything differently during high school?

SM: My four years in MarinSEL were some of the best. I met a group of students and teachers that I am still in touch with today. If I were to give myself advice it would be to really soak up all of the information provided to us. It is easy to rush through an assignment without putting a lot of thought into it, especially when there is so much going on, but at times I wish I would have slowed down and really listened to the information and skills being taught to me. I still wish I remember Ms. Oropallo’s lesson on how to change a tire! (haha)

MarinSEL: Last question! How do you picture yourself making a difference in the world?

SM: As a Junior/rising Senior in college, I am still very unclear what I will end up doing as a career, or how exactly I will leave an impact on this world. One of the main reasons I declared a sociology major, is because I want to do a job that involves working with and helping people. One of the internships I am looking into would involve working with refugees and immigrants to prepare them for a career and assist them with financial and other matters. As a young adult growing up in today’s society, I think it is very important to stay informed on the issues going on in the world around me and use my voice to make a change.

Save the Date: Leadership Retreat: August 17th – 19th

Mark your calendars for the 2018-19 Leadership Retreat, which will be held at Westminster Woods from Friday, August 17th to Sunday, August 19th. If you have not registered, please do so here.

Green Fling Raffle Ticket Winners

Congratulations to our Green Fling raffle ticket winners:

  • Nancy Hillman – $150 Amazon Gift Card
  • Paul Johnson – $50 Cheesecake Factory Gift Card
  • Stephanie Note – $50 BJs Gift Card

Congratulations to our top student raffle ticket sellers:

  • Braden Bowman
  • Kailani Stuart

Green Fling Party Fundraiser: Crepe Party: June 30th at 5:30pm

Were you unable to attend Green Fling, but still want to get in on the action? It’s not too late! MarinSEL student Mael Sherman (Class of 2015) will be hosting a crepe making tutorial, which will then be followed by a crepe dinner! A tentative menu (based on seasonal availability) is butternut squash, ricotta, and fried sage crepes followed by chocolate and hazelnut crepes. Get your ticket here.

Stay tuned for more Party Fundraisers including Margarita Mamas and Blind Wine Tasting that will be hosted this fall!