Director’s Message

When we came up with the idea for MarinSEL, we had the intention of training the next generation of leaders. However, I think we’ve done better. These MarinSEL students aren’t the next generation of leaders, they are leaders right now.

This was reaffirmed in September, when I had the pleasure of witnessing Eleanor Huang (Class of 2020) and Cameron Evans (Class of 2019) both sit on panels at affiliate events for the Global Climate Action Summit. I may be biased, but I think they outshone all of their fellow panelists (all of whom were adults). I loved how Eleanor challenged us all, “at least with the School of Environmental Leadership, you can count on every graduating class to change the world, because they’ve already done it. So I’d like to challenge you, all of you, to involve and engage youth in whatever you do. I have no idea what kind of environmental challenges I will face in my future. I do know that if my generation is given the chance, we can solve them.” Later in the event, participants were creating signs saying Eleanor for President 2028. And I couldn’t agree with them more.

In addition to the students that spoke at affiliate events, we also had one student, Braden Bouwman (Class of 2020) who was invited to attend the Global Climate Action Summit as one of the 30 under 30 representatives from all over the world. As a result, he spoke with Ray Mabus, former Secretary of the Navy under President Obama, who later Skyped in to speak with MarinSEL seniors and freshmen to talk about the link between climate change and national security.

Freshmen and seniors enjoying a Skype call with Ray Mabus, former Secretary of the Navy under President Obama.

One of the things that was driven home throughout the Summit was how innovative and forward thinking our school is. I met so many people who are leaders in the climate sector who want to partner with MarinSEL and work with our students. This tells me that we are doing the right thing. If you are interested in partnering with MarinSEL as well, let me know! We have students volunteer at events throughout the year in the community, work with community partners through their LEAD projects, and intern with partner organizations.

Best Regards,


P.S. If you missed Cameron’s speech, check out the video courtesy of CMCM and Time to Lead on Climate here. And if you missed Eleanor’s speech, check out the video here.

MarinSEL Students Get Inspired at Bioneers 2018

By: Shannon Takaoka

Each year, MarinSEL makes a number of opportunities available for students to participate in outside-of-class events focused on environmental science, innovation and activism. One of the most popular of these activities is the annual Bioneers Conference, which takes place every October at the Marin Center in San Rafael.

Founded in 1990 by social entrepreneurs Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons, Bioneers is a nonprofit organization that brings together social and scientific innovators who are passionate about creating solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. The organization’s acclaimed national conference and local Bioneers Network events are complemented by an extensive media presence that includes an award-winning radio and podcast series, a book series, and contributions to third-party projects like Leonardo DiCaprio’s movie The 11th Hour and Michael Pollan’s bestselling book The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

MarinSEL has worked with the Bioneers Youth Leadership Program since 2014, and each year funds a group scholarship so that students can get discounted tickets. This past October, eight MarinSEL students were able to attend the event, which included a host of exciting activities ranging from art exhibits and film screenings to workshops and keynotes from leaders in environmental advocacy, social justice, climate change, youth voices and more.

First time attendee John Troller, a junior, attended more than 15 different sessions at this year’s Bioneers, with the standout being an interactive “Visionary Science Fiction” workshop led by spoken-word performing duo Climbing PoeTree. During the workshop, attendees were asked to participate in imagining life 100 years from now to visualize how humans can adapt to environmental challenges and evolve in positive ways on a changing planet.

“Most of the sessions got me thinking about things in ways I haven’t before,” said Troller. “The weekend had a very strong, positive message throughout, which left me feeling optimistic.”

Leland Stilson, a junior, and his brother Duncan, a freshman, also attended a number of sessions, including keynotes featuring Michael Pollan, bestselling author of The Botany of Desire, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and How to Change Your Mind, and Rebecca Moore, Director for Google Earth. Both especially enjoyed Moore’s presentation, which focused on the use of Google Earth to better understand and address big environmental issues ranging from deforestation in the Amazon to illegal animal poaching.

To help pay it forward, MarinSEL Bioneers attendees raised $745 for the youth scholarship fund next year. Those interested in donating can do so via the Crowdrise page.

Teacher Spotlight: Integrating Equity into MSEL Seminar and LEAD Projects with Alex Robins

By: Sheri Matteo

It is widely recognized that we are living in an era of increasing disparity, exclusion and a tendency to homogenize culture and society. One MarinSEL teacher is making a concerted effort to integrate the concept of equity into classes and projects. Read on to learn how Alex Robins is approaching the MarinSEL curriculum through an equity lens:

Alex, what does equity mean to you?

Alex Robins: “Equity” means creating equal opportunities rather than equal outcomes. For instance, all students should have an equal opportunity for success at Terra Linda. The school and community, then, should create systems that create equitable opportunities for each student depending on their skills, socioeconomic background, race, language, and environment.

Why is it important for high school students to learn about equity?

AR: America is an incredibly segregated place (mostly through self-segregation) around education, economic background, and housing accessibility. High school students have most likely grown up around other peers who look, act, and sound like them. Understanding equity allows for reflection and empathy around how our society is built and encourages people to think about how creating connections between different communities improves everyone’s standard of living.

How are you integrating this concept into the MarinSEL Seminar and LEAD projects?

AR: In Seminar, we’ve been focusing on accessibility — to ideas, options, businesses, and policies. If a sustainable product is more expensive, it is unlikely to affect communities of poverty who tend to need more protection. If a policy is focusing on wealthier households, the benefits aren’t helping create a larger environmental movement. These tenets have helped our LEAD projects focus on how creating a policy can be helpful to ALL communities. Rather than focusing on small, incremental changes by individuals, implementing a policy forces society to conform to a larger change and ultimately benefits more people.

Do you believe the students are grasping what equity means and why it is important? What are the indicators?

AR: I truly do believe our Sophomores are making connections to the importance of equity. It is easy to live inside your own sphere of influence and forget the impact your choices have on others. However, we have really considered environmentalism and sustainability as it relates to real-world choices and consequences. They see how simplistic actions like recycling are only important in the context of implementing systems that create easier access to recycling for all people. In many class discussions and projects, students have considered the ideas set forth by the program and by me (their teacher), as well as the ways they can use these ideas on a larger scale.

What are your final thoughts on teaching equity in the MarinSEL classroom?

AR: I believe the more opportunities our students have to learn from each other and from the many sources of knowledge, experience, and ideology that our community contains, the better. Continuing to bring more diverse voices into the community will only enhance the experience of our program and our students.

What do students have to say about this?

Lucy Knopf, sophomore: My LEAD project is actually on Social Equity in Transportation, and we are focusing on improving the overall equity in Marin related to public transportation. Despite common belief, access to public transportation is unfortunately very bad here compared to other locations. When it comes to equity in income, race, religion, gender, or anything that differentiates people, there is always unfair treatment. We are working to mend this issue piece by piece, and right now we are focusing on making the Marin Transit and Muni websites more accessible to people who speak languages other than English, which, if altered, would make an influential and immediate difference.

How to Survive, Thrive in MarinSEL

Students Reveal Secrets to Their Success

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 worth little unless it’s shared. The quote above by Rachel Carson gave me strength at difficult times in my life. As a parent of an MarinSEL student for the past four years, I often wondered what the next year would hold for her. That’s when it hit me: Why not ask those students currently and formerly involved in the program?

What follows is a little bit of advice, wisdom, and lived experience from those currently in MarinSEL, or who’ve recently left it, to shine a light for those who follow this path (some responses have been lightly edited for clarity).

We will present this article in 3 parts over the next 3 MarinSEL newsletter editions. In this edition we present advice for incoming students, from the current freshmen of the class of 2022.

Emi Takaoka, current Freshman

“Surprisingly, I wish I knew that the homework load in MarinSEL is very manageable. A lot of people I knew were a bit skeptical about how we would be able to balance homework and extracurricular activities, but fortunately, the majority of the work we have to do is projects. In fact, this is a plus in my opinion. This way, when I actually do have to do homework it seems more meaningful than a worksheet or a packet. I also wish I knew that it’s really easy to adjust to the wake-up time/zero period. Before I began the year my friends and I were worried about the amount of sleep we would be getting with the 5:30 am wake-up time. However, now I feel productive in the mornings and it’s not stressful getting to school and finding your class because there are not as many students around.

“One thing that I was especially worried about was how I would interact within my class. I also didn’t want to be stuck with people that were difficult to work with. The truth was that people in my class came from all groups and cliques that formed in middle school, and not everyone gets along all the time. But, all of the labels, popularity “status,” and cliques eventually melted away. Thanks to MarinSEL, I am now friends with people that I never thought I would have been in middle school. It’s really helpful to know that a lot of pressure is off and that no one judges anyone. We all have gone through ups and downs with each other but it’s reassuring to know that 31 other people are in the same boat as you.”

Jessie Kamman, current Freshman

“I wish I knew the predictions for global warming before I attended the MarinSEL program. So far in our year, we have been learning about the extremities of global warming and climate change. It is fantastic exposure and information to inspire change, and it really backs up why I wanted to join the program; to learn more about the topic. However, learning about the worsening conditions and the blockades for change made by money and politics, is quite disheartening. I wish I knew what was coming, so learning more about it wasn’t so upsetting.

“Before I started the program, a little helpful advice I wish I had, would be to stay patient. Spending so much time with your MarinSEL class the first year can be tiring at times. Being patient with classmates is always important. It is also especially important to be patient with yourself. Take the time you need to make sure you don’t burn out, but also be tolerant of the work you have to do. Persevere to stay strong through all the work, in addition to the time you have to work on it.

“One piece of advice I would give to someone thinking of joining the MarinSEL program would be the same advice a senior gave to me: ‘Don’t let the world get you down.’ Yes, there are a lot of tragic things happening: storms, extinctions, deforestation, and emissions. But the good thing is that through MarinSEL you can start learning about these things and the power you have to change them. Always stay positive and remember that there is always time to make change.”

A Parent’s Perspective

By: Ronelle Scardina

When a student commits to being part of MarinSEL, their entire family is welcomed into the community. To shed light on what it is really like to be a parent of students in the MarinSEL program, we recently spoke with Linda Hsu, parent of Axel (junior) and Jason (sophomore).

According to Linda, “We have, overall, been happy with the MarinSEL program for our boys. The classes are good and the best teachers are drawn to the program. Furthermore, they are surrounded by other highly-motivated students. We think it will set them apart when it’s time to apply for college.”

The rigorous academic schedule and extra class creates challenges and, at the same time, a taste for real-life experience. Linda adds, “It’s hard for teenagers to get up and get to school before 7 a.m. But after awhile, the kids get used to it, and as they get older, it means that they can either have a break during a later period or can get out of school earlier. Plus, my kids liked getting P.E. out of the way first thing when they were freshmen.”

For all the reasons above, the mother of two would consider sending another child through the MarinSEL program. Reflecting on the experience to date, “From the beginning, the SEI staff, the teachers, and the parent community have been welcoming, responsive, and supportive.”

Thank you Linda for sharing your experience with the community and parents who are considering the program for the 2019-2020 school year! One thing is for certain, if it wasn’t for the parents who actively support the program throughout the year, MarinSEL wouldn’t be what it is today.

Youth Speaks on Climate Change

By: Ally Teper (Class of 2019)

The week of September 10th,  students from MarinSEL were well represented at the Global Climate Action Summit held in San Francisco, CA. Senior Cameron Evans and junior Eleanor Huang spoke alongside influential environmentalists at events, which drew hundreds of leaders and climate activists from all around the world.

Eleanor Huang was a part of a panel discussion at the event, Education: Key to Long-Term Climate Action Success. She spoke passionately to the audience about youth involvement.

“I challenge all here to involve and engage youth in everything you do. I don’t know what climate challenges are coming. I do know that if you give us a chance, my generation can solve them.” Huang’s passionate speech led to participants creating ‘Eleanor for President in 2028” posters in the break out activity.  

Pictured (left to right): Dr. Tom Adams (Deputy Superintendent, California Department of Education), Michael Watkins (Superintendent of Santa Cruz County Office of Education), Juanita Chen (STEM and College & Career Pathways Coordinator, Rialto Unified School District), Kahri Boykin (Teacher, Yosemite Continuation High School), and Eleanor Huang (11th grade student at MarinSEL).

MarinSEL senior Ana Ostrovsky, who helped lead a break out session during the event at the Global Climate Action Summit affiliate event was greatly impacted by what she saw during the event saying, “I feel confident in my generation to continue to be movers and shakers, constantly questioning what we feel is not right. I think my generation sees that all issues are connected; social justice and environmental justice, even gun control, and we are going to do everything in our power to leave this earth better than how we inherited it. We know that we can’t afford to waste any more time because we might be the last generation before it is too late.”

MarinSEL senior Max Manwaring-Mueller spent the day taking video and conducting interviews to capture the innovative work in climate education around the world happening at the Global Climate Action Summit. “I was not aware of how climate-illiterate students are across the nation – not their fault of course. Yet with what I saw in the conference, I feel like a push to spread curriculum that mandates climate literacy into common core classes. I do feel hope for the future.”

In addition to the event Eleanor, Ana, and Max participated in, MarinSEL senior Cameron also spoke at a local Marin Global Climate Action Summit affiliate event, Lead on Climate. Cameron spoke alongside Congressman Jared Huffman, Marin Supervisors Kate Sears and Damon Connolly, and Novato Mayor Josh Fryday. “While I wish I could say that I was an internationally recognized leader, a physicist, professor, policy maker, any of the above…I sadly cannot. I am the most average of teenagers who has simply discovered  the power of her own voice. I bring that voice here tonight to represent the restless youth in a growing movement to change our planet for the better.” You can watch Cameron’s full speech here.

Post-Global Climate Action Summit, the MarinSEL students are ready more than ever to take a leadership role in the global climate community. MarinSEL students stood on a global platform and they were poised and influential, proving that student voices are powerful and can make a difference.

Alumni Corner

By: Noel E. Olson

Nick Slanec, MarinSEL Class of 2017, is currently a Sophomore at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He joins us this month to talk about life after MarinSEL! 

How did you decide that Loyola Marymount was the best fit for you? What criterion drove your decision?

NS: I found choosing a college a really daunting task. Narrowing it down based on things like size, location, etc. was difficult — it’s like being offered a bunch of food you’ve never tried before and having to pick your favorite without tasting it. However, by the end of the search, I had a system. I broke down the colleges I visited into two pillars that were important for me: College Experience (classes, campus life, culture, etc.), and Professional Development (internships, resume development, etc). LMU had the best balance between the two out of all the schools I looked at.

Tell us about your course of study.

NS: I spent freshman year as an Undeclared major but figured out early on I wanted to transfer to Applied Information Management Systems. I took the courses I needed to switch colleges from the liberal arts college to the business college, and now I’m an AIMS major. Think of AIMS as IT, computer science, and business administration all wrapped into one.

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

NS: I love filmmaking, but I didn’t want to go to film school for various reasons. Thankfully, LMU has a great film school and the students are always filming a new project. I’ve been able to help out on the crew for shoots here and there, and that’s been a great experience. I also just joined the board for the AIMS Society, which I am really excited about.

Are you working? How is this helping you grow?

NS: Yeah! I’m actually working remotely for Gensler, my summer job for the last two summers. It’s an architecture firm and I make quick 2-5 min videos teaching the employees how to use the software that the IT department provides (Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, etc.). I’ve found working at a big company like Gensler has really given me some valuable experience and insight into what the working world is actually like. It’s helped me figure out what I want to be doing and where, when I graduate college.

What skills from MSEL do you think prepared you for college?

NS: I think the biggest one for me was communication. Being able to communicate effectively between team members, professionally with adults, and speaking confidently in front of a group has really helped me in both my school work and with professional networking. I’m really glad that MSEL drove home the importance of these skills because they are a part of everything you do, in college and especially in the working world.

Of your four years in MSEL, which project stands out as your favorite (LEAD, Internship, Sustainable Business) and why?

NS: Ooh, that’s a hard one. I think the project that was most beneficial for me was my internship at the San Rafael Airport. I was given relative autonomy there and that really helped me develop the self-motivation to get things done. I also got to make their website, which was a blast and a great thing to add to my LinkedIn page.

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

NS: I definitely want to get a few more internships before I graduate. I would love to do more web design as well, but I don’t think I’ll actively look for web design internships.

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

I think the LEAD projects and the internships were really valuable. The Walker Creek counseling trip was also a blast. My only suggestion would be to encourage the students to create their own connections and find internships themselves. The hardest part about an internship is finding and getting it. I liked that we worked on our professional development the semester before the internships and I think including networking into that would be really valuable.

Do you have any advice for current MSEL students?

NS: Take advantage of as many of the public speaking opportunities as you can. Yes, it’s terrifying, but it’s worth it, and you won’t get as many of those opportunities later.

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

NS: I think I would have taken AP Computer Science and gotten my feet wet in coding because college computer science courses are really fast-paced. If you are trying to do anything with computer science in college, start learning now. It’s really valuable and you’ll thank yourself later.

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

NS: I would love to use technology to even the playing field for everyone, like making sure everyone has an Internet connection. The Internet is the modern equivalent of the printing press. If everyone has the same access to information, it evens the playing field.

Upcoming Events

MarinSEL Application Due – January 11, 2019

Exploration Days for Prospective Students – February 9th and 10th, 2019

Green Fling Gala – March 9, 2019 6pm – 10pm 

Green Business Leaders Mixer: The Next Wave – April 25, 2019 5pm – 7:30pm

Senior Poster Sumposium – May 20, 2019 4pm – 7pm 

MarinSEL Awards Night, May 21, 2019 7pm – 9:30pm

Senior Celebration, May 31, 2019, 5:30pm – 9pm