Director’s Message

As we conclude our 8th year of the program, I am so proud of all that the MarinSEL students and community were able to accomplish this year. This year brought more ambitious projects than ever before. From our freshmen, who collaborated with ArtStart and the Las Gallinas Watershed Council to start the process of installing large scale public art, to our sophomores, who organized 13 agencies at a Canal Bike Fair, to our juniors, who built a structure for goats in just one day, and our seniors, who in total logged over 3,600 internship hours while juggling demanding classes and college applications. Across the board, our students and teachers continue to raise the bar for youth environmental leadership.

It is no secret that students grow tremendously in the program. This year we asked our graduating seniors a question, “How has MarinSEL shaped who you are today?” A huge thank you to Max, for capturing their responses in the MarinSEL Class of 2019 Senior Video. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t yet! I am so proud of our seniors for an amazing four years and wish them the best of luck in their next adventure. I have no doubt that they will change the world for the better.

Additionally, this month we welcome our new MarinSEL Fellow, Brianna Boone! Naomi will be remaining at SEI, supporting other projects, while Bri takes over the MarinSEL Fellow role. Bri is a recent graduate of UC Berkeley; she majored in Conservation and Resource Studies with an emphasis in Food Systems and Sustainable Development. At UC Berkeley, she started an environmental service organization that connected over 60 passionate UC Berkeley undergraduates with relevant Bay Area environmental organizations for volunteering and professional development opportunities. Welcome to the team Bri!

Have a wonderful summer, all, we’ll see you in August!

Best Regards,

Cyane Dandridge

P.S. Want to write for the MarinSEL Newsletter next year? Sign up here to write short articles for our quarterly news!

To College and Beyond!

MarinSEL class of 2019 is ready for launch as they start their post-high-school adventures.

By Georgie Craig

Members of the MarinSEL class of 2019 have been accepted at some of the world’s top 25 colleges. To name drop a few: Stanford, Berkeley, Northwestern, UCLA, and UC San Diego.

This Marin School of Environmental Leadership class embodies the program’s foundational four Cs: Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication, and especially Collaboration. It’s the first MarinSEL class where no student left the program. The original group of 30 is completing this long and winding road together. This class exemplifies loyalty and brains. Need I say more?

No. Let them speak for themselves.

Sawyer Taylor worked hard for her spot at Stanford University. She intends to major in Chemical Engineering but will stay true to her MarinSEL roots by minoring in “something involved with earth systems.”

Sawyer dreamed of attending Stanford since she was 13 and has worked hard to make that dream a reality. “At Stanford, I will have the opportunity to explore every area of academia that I’m interested in, among some of the most accomplished professors in the world,” she said. Sawyer credits MarinSEL for part of her drive. “The fact that I’m actually a member of the Stanford class of 2023 is so surreal. I’m excited to apply what I’ve learned as a MarinSEL student at Stanford and beyond!”

The other in-state private school choice? Chapman University in Southern California.

UCs were the most popular selection for MarinSEL students with 11 out of a class of 30, or 37 percent, attending. Students are exhilarated by the opportunities these colleges will provide.

Miranda Craig is ecstatic to be attending UC Berkeley in the fall, despite suffering from chronic migraines. In fact, her headaches have fueled her passion for studying biology in “hopes of becoming a doctor specializing in pediatric neurology.”

Ben Kanter will also attend UC Berkeley and is staying true to his MarinSEL roots as an Environmental Economics major within the College of Natural Resources. He credits his experiences during the past four years for this choice. “MarinSEL definitely helped me develop my environmental edge and I’m excited to continue this path!”

Cameron Evans also credits MarinSEL with her next academic adventure at UC Davis. “I will be heading to UC Davis to study landscape architecture and sustainable design in hopes to continue protecting our outdoor spaces and making them better for our communities “

Sophie Yoakum is thrilled to explore what UCLA has to offer. “I’m currently undecided as to what I want to do with my major and career, but I’m looking forward to taking lots of classes at UCLA and trying new things to figure out what I’m passionate about!

California State Universities were also a popular choice, with 7 out of 30 students attending. California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo was the most popular CSU, with four MarinSEL students choosing SLO.

California Junior Colleges also attracted MarinSEL students, with four attending. College of Marin is lucky enough to lure two, while Santa Rosa Junior College and Santa Barbara City College will have one student each.

Though 80 percent of MarinSEL students, 24 out of 30, will attend college in California – perhaps to enjoy parental comforts within driving distance –  five intrepid souls will venture out-of-state.

Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, lured Jackson Darby despite the notorious winters. “Next year, I will be attending Northwestern as an economics major. I chose NU for the academic flexibility,” he said.

Mica Smith is also excited to venture east. She’ll attend the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vermont. Her work in MarinSEL lead her to this choice. “The school has an overall focus on the environment, giving me the opportunity to explore the beautiful ecosystems around the school and supporting me in my interest in environmental law,” Mica said.

Social impact opportunities lured Ana Ostrovsky to Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. “I will be taking what I’ve learned to new heights at a small liberal arts college that sits on a 760 acre arboretum and is known for its interdisciplinary excellence and emphasis on social impact!”

Love of the outdoors and exploration helped Jillian Hickey to choose the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. “Catch me backpacking on Mt.Rainier!” she said. If you don’t know, Mt. Rainier is an active volcano and the tallest mountain in the Cascade range. Jillian’s Pre-Public Health major, with a minor in Environmental Engineering, illustrates her passion for critical thinking that MarinSEL fostered. “I’m excited to explore the connections between these majors and travel abroad.”

Not everyone decided that college was the next step. Lucas Berkley will take a gap year internship. “I chose to intern at a research institute in Boston. I don’t feel that I’m ready for college quite yet. However, I want to follow my passions for biology and physics with the internship I’ve chosen and enroll in a Junior College in the fall of 2020,” Lucas said.

Cyane Dandridge, the Founding Executive Director of the School of Environmental Leadership, is feeling extremely proud of how much this amazing group of young adults have accomplished.

“I have been consistently impressed by the drive and achievement of this senior class; now, at the pinnacle of their MarinSEL experience, I am proud of how many fantastic higher education institutions are recognizing their success as well,” Cyane said. “Every student is following a path that is the right one for them, and I am excited to continue to hear stories of how they showcase their amazing leadership to the world.”

All of us who have been fortunate to witness the Class of 2019’s growth and successes are also eager to heed those stories as well.

Congratulations to the MarinSEL Class of 2019!

Juniors Complete Final Engineering Project: A Home for Toluma Farms Goats

By Shannon Takaoka

MarinSEL juniors had a big success with their final engineering project for the year: building a new home for the goats that live and work at Toluma Farms in Tomales.

With a focus on giving students hands on experience in design, engineering and construction, Allison Oropallo’s engineering technology class is always a memorable experience. From creating chicken coops that they sell to fund next year’s incoming junior class, to their final, epic build – think “extreme makeover” in one day – students are challenged to try out new skills, use the knowledge they’ve gained and work together to solve problems.

“For the past two years, I’ve brought juniors to Goatlandia – a goat sanctuary in Santa Rosa – to build a large play structure & barn/house for goats,” said Oropollo. “This year, we built a 40’ x 16’ structure to protect Toluma Farms’ 150 goats from predators and weather.”

Toluma Farms is 200+ acres, has more than 300 animals and makes cheese for Tomales Farmstead Creamery. Students left campus at 7am on May 24th with their tool belts, and stayed till the project was complete. The goat house is a gift to Toluma Farms – a way for MarinSEL students to give back to the local community.

“This project takes tremendous planning and preparation,” added Oropollo. “We do it in one day, but we plan & prepare all year. It’s quite an amazing thing to witness and even seasoned contractors are impressed with what the students are able to do. And for the students, it’s an experience that they’ll remember for years to come.”

For more, check out the story that ran on May 24th in the Marin Independent Journal.

Sophomores Learn New Leadership Skills as Walker Creek Cabin Leaders

Four straight days of wrangling 5th grade campers would have been challenging for anyone, but MarinSEL 10th graders were up for the challenge! The staff at Walker Creek were so impressed with our students and we even got a letter from a parent of a 5th grader, praising the cabin leaders. Amazing job, sophomores!

Freshman Food Unit Explores Environmental Impact of How People Eat

By Shannon Takaoka

MarinSEL freshman recently concluded their Food Unit, during which they learned about food systems and agricultural practices around the world and how these systems impact, and are influenced by, the environment. During the first part of the unit, each student researched a country to find out more about the foods indigenous to specific growing regions and geographies. They also researched the environmental ramifications of each country’s agricultural practices and how different types of food systems may be altered by climate change.

Next, the class honed their debating skills by learning about and analyzing the contentious subject of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Students discussed the pros and cons of introducing GMOs in food systems and studied their potential effects on ecosystems, health and the environment.

The Food Unit concluded with a hands-on exploration of our local food system. Students worked to create healthy, local and low-carbon meal plans, visited the Marin Civic Center Farmers Market to shop for ingredients and then spent half a day at San Domenico’s outdoor kitchen to prepare and present their delicious dishes. The winning meal – judged on taste, carbon footprint, cost and creative presentation – was prepared by Allie Madden, Anna Foehr and Meredith Case. Here’s what the team had to say about their experience:

“We learned a lot about why it’s so important to eat local, fresh foods – not just for our own health, but also for the environment. Spending a day at the farmers market was incredible, because we got to experience for ourselves how easy it is to find these types of foods.”

The students also talked about how they didn’t realize before the project how lucky they are to be living in Marin county, where organic, locally grown foods are readily available. They recognized that this is not always the case for kids in other parts of the U.S. and appreciated the health and environmental benefits of having local options, creating meals from fresh ingredients and avoiding processed foods.

“Going to the farmer’s market, where you are surrounded by organic vendors, you realize this doesn’t have to be a far out goal,” said Case. “Especially with meat and dairy, I personally will not really eat it unless I know it is locally made, which is the same for Allie and Anna. I feel very grateful to have been able to learn about such an important topic that has taught me things that will benefit us for years to come.”

How to Survive, Thrive in MarinSEL (Parting Thoughts From Seniors/Graduates)

By: Georgie Craig

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth, find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson, igniter of the environmental movement in the United States

Advice, wisdom, and lived experience is a treasure when shared. In this the last newsletter of the 2018/2019 school year, we check in with MarinSEL seniors and graduates to receive their wisdom on finishing the program and setting out into the world. (Responses have been lightly edited for clarity.)

What two seniors, Miranda Craig and Sophie Yoakum, wish to share:

Senior Miranda Craig, Class of 2019, Accepted to UC Berkeley

Miranda caught on camera at her Marin Municipal Water District internship

“I would say to take very seriously the opportunity to write a business plan.  Having the opportunity to start your own business, and then present it to possible funders, is real-world experience that looks great on college applications. So, write the business plan well.”

A piece of advice from Miranda: “Take advantage of the program.  The volunteer events are fantastic opportunities. And keep good track of your volunteer hours as that is important for college applications. California Scholarship Federation requires a certain number of volunteer hours and MarinSEL provides those opportunities. Also, colleges really are looking for students who understand the four Cs that MarinSEL is built upon. Communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity is sought after by every college. Take advantage of all the opportunities MarinSEL provides to shine in each of those areas. It’ll make your college application so much easier to write.”

Senior Sophie Yoakum, Class of 2019, Accepted to UCLA

Sophie’s business, Marin Tea

“I wish I had known the commitment being a manager of my own business really required. When Marin Tea was selected to be implemented, I was super excited, but I didn’t understand what being an entrepreneur really meant. I think a lot of people want their business to be chosen, but they should realize that being a manager is a huge time commitment. It’s like a whole other extracurricular. Of course, I’d highly recommend trying to get your business chosen because it’s incredibly rewarding and a super valuable experience. But only if you’re willing to give it 100 percent. Being a marketing manager or any of the other roles are just as incredible and offer a ton of added benefits! Just be sure of the place you want in the whole business before you commit. I wish a junior had told me to expect the total freedom given to me for my business. A lot of the time, during class, we are given free time to work on our business. Take advantage of it! It’s super tempting to relax and not get work done. But it saves you a lot of time spent outside of school. I wish I had understood how important our class-time was, especially with a teacher and other student businesses as resources. This freedom also can result in a loss of motivation. After the Business Leaders Mixer, there aren’t a ton of opportunities to sell that are handed to you so easily. Make the most of the time and freedom you have to progress your business in your own way. It’s the perfect moment to distinguish yourself from the other businesses with a cool event or a fun new marketing scheme.

A piece of advice from Sophie: “I think that making MarinSEL work for you is all about investing your time. If you do not participate in what MarinSEL has to offer, you won’t learn or gain anything. Each and every MarinSEL opportunity is a chance to improve yourself and try something new. Take it from someone who started MarinSEL being too afraid to make a phone call, and now handles hundreds of customer interactions everyday at work. You don’t have to attend every event or sign up for every sustainable conference – but make sure you fully take advantage of MarinSEL’s unique education. You have access to resources no one else in the school has, so make the most of it! It’ll pay off later.”

What three alumni, Inès Guéneau, Dahlya Habashi, and Matyas Krizek wish to share:

Ines Gueneau, Class of 2016

“I wish I knew from the start that not all internships are good. Even though on paper it may sound that way, not every single one is. Just because I knew I was interested in going into medicine does not mean the senior internship at Kaiser Permanente Hospital was the best one for me. In fact, it caused me quite a few issues even though I was very determined to get it. During my senior year, Kaiser decided they would take on a senior intern from MarinSEL; what the manager taking me on failed to mention to our program was that he was applying for a different position within Kaiser and was hoping to get it. This manager had no idea of who his replacement would be and if Kaiser would even find one in time for my arrival. For half of the semester, I wasn’t doing anything they had promised I would do on paper. The manager wasn’t organized, nor were the projects he gave me or their timeline. Just because you’re a senior in high school does not mean you shouldn’t have a voice. I should’ve known to tell someone (whether it be the Kaiser manager or a teacher/fellow in MarinSEL) that I wasn’t feeling productive there. I thought in choosing my senior internship that it should closely relate to my career goals. What I should’ve picked was the one with the more interesting projects and the more interesting managers. Halfway through the semester, the Kaiser manager upgraded to his new position and there was no replacement. I switched my internship to Marin Clean Energy and had a much better time there. I had my own office, my own independent project, and got along really well with my manager. If I didn’t understand or felt I wasn’t being given a big enough task, she would assign me a second project. Also, she always had her door open for me. Now I’m a junior in college, and I’m still in contact with my MCE manager. We have lunch together when I come home and she’s written me letters of recommendation. It’s important to take the senior internship seriously, work well with your manager, and others on the team. Even though it may not have anything to do with what you plan on doing later, you will still gain important skills from it. Skills you can definitely use for other jobs, internships, and interviews. As far as what I wish a senior had told me to expect, it’s that senior year is not “just a joke.” Applying to colleges takes a lot of energy. You have start thinking about it and writing those essays before it’s too late. It’s all about working on a deadline, despite everything else going on. By the time I got to the second semester, I didn’t feel the same motivation in my AP classes. I figured ‘oh, I’ll have to retake this in college anyways so who cares?’ Who will care is you later in college when everyone else is doing much better because they took the AP class/test and have that fundamental background. I’m in exactly this position right now for physics. Senior year is not a joke;  take things in school seriously.”

A piece of advice from Inès: My advice for students in MarinSEL: take note of every project, every important thing you do throughout your time in the program. It’ll make it that much easier to write your college essay later on, or a supplemental essay, or fill out those boxes in the application about what you have done. Since my freshman year, I have documented everything I’ve done and all the details so I’d remember them when I’m a senior. MarinSEL is so unique and so special. It’s also pretty difficult to explain to outsiders because this is not your typical charter program and we do some pretty cool/important projects. The more detail you have about what you’ve done the easier it’ll be to explain MarinSEL and the magnitude of what it is we do. And that means you should actively be participating in the projects. Another thing is to take presentations and public speaking seriously. MarinSEL does such a good job of making sure we have so much experience with it. Do your best to actually get comfortable with it because there’s so much of it in college. I’ve had a lot of interviewers ask me what experience I have with public speaking. They sometimes even have me make a presentation to present to them – in an interview! I know I wasn’t very comfortable with it for a long time but I really pushed myself and spoke for the Business Leaders Breakfast.

Dahlya Habashi, Class of 2016

Dahlya at her Marin Clean Energy internship

Going into senior year was exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. Looking ahead, I knew I’d have to balance my MarinSEL internship, college apps, schoolwork, friends, and other extra curriculars. Had I known that ahead of time, I think I could have worked on my time management skills a little better, rather than learning the hard way and figuring it out as I went. Going into senior year, I had expected it to be a breeze. However, the first semester of senior year meant college applications and that was anything but a breeze. School does a pretty good job of preparing you for the college application process by bringing in counselors to talk to your class about expectations and requiring you to write one of your college applications as your last writing assignment of junior year (in AP English). While all these adults were trying to prepare me for the process, I don’t think I took their advice very seriously. I thought they were maybe exaggerating the process. So, as someone who has gone through the process twice now (I transferred), I would want to be told that the process is no joke. It’s important to learn to manage your time and break down the application process. Set yourself a soft-deadline for each supplement/essay you have to write and have it finished by then with ample time for you to edit. Make a spreadsheet with all the deadlines and set aside some time each day, even if it’s only half an hour, to dedicate to your applications. Spreading out the workload helps you stay fresh and not get overwhelmed by the process, but you have to start early. Procrastination may be fun at first but the only person it hurts is yourself, so don’t do it! But, and this one is most important, don’t forget to make time for yourself. Some of my best memories were made senior year and yours will be too. So don’t forget that while school may seem like your whole world right now, it’s not and you deserve to have some fun too!”

A piece of advice from Dahlya:For me, MarinSEL was always the right choice. I started out as an introvert and through all the group projects and team-building exercises I was able to become more confident and improve my ability to communicate effectively to a large group of people, without fear. I think the secret, if there is such thing, to making the MarinSEL program work for you is to embrace the program, as cheesy at that sounds. As soon as I stopped worrying about how many people I would be presenting to or the deadlines placed on me to help create a learning center the public could interact with through my internship, I was able to focus on my actions and how they would contribute to the end goal. As a college student, the skills I learned in MarinSEL are invaluable. I am currently in a class called “Grand Challenge Initiatives” which is essentially a MarinSEL LEAD project. In the class, you design a project and spend the entire semester working towards your end goal (my groups’ goal is to design and deliver a working water filter to an underprivileged village in Fiji to reduce health risks in the village). Additionally, the skills learned from my four years in MarinSEL, such as time management, working with a team, communication, grant writing, public speaking etc., have helped me stand out from other students and helped me get into a lab to conduct research with a professor.”

Matyas Krizek, Class of 2017

“One thing that I wished I knew before entering my senior year of MarinSEL is the amount of time one should put into finding and applying to colleges that they like. I wish a senior had told me not stress too much about applying to colleges and finding an internship to work for. There always will be an internship that will take you. Also, no matter where you get into college, as long as you find what you are passionate about and follow the right track to achieve your passion, you’ll be successful.”

A piece of advice from Matyas: “The best way to succeed in MarinSEL is to be outspoken and cooperative. MarinSEL will teach you all the skills and techniques that you will need to succeed in the program, and afterwards. As long as you are a willing student, you will be successful.”

Thank you to all the students who shared their MarinSEL experiences and well-earned advice!

MarinSEL on Social Media
Watch the MarinSEL Class of 2019 Senior Video, created and edited by Max Manwaring-Mueller.
Watch the Class of 2020 Engineering Video, created and edited by Jack O’Brien.
Enjoy our 9th and 10th Grade LEAD Presentations on the SEI YouTube Channel.

Upcoming Events
Parent Potluck
Tuesday, August 13th from 6PM – 8PM
Location TBA
Leadership Retreat
Friday, August 16th at 6AM to Sunday, August 18th at 5:30PM
Westminster Woods
Register Here