Although I’ve only finished my sophomore year at American University, I still remember how challenging it was to start a club at my high school. I was part of several clubs and I saw first hand how much effort went into the startup, the officer recruiting, and the running of clubs on a weekly basis. Often we had clubs with no clear mission or club meetings with plenty of cookies but low attendance.
On Saturday, May 21, 2016, I attended the Fremont FIERCE Summit 2.0 as a college intern and I was astounded by what I saw. It wasn’t the line up with of impressive keynote speakers or the diverse group of industry experts on the panel that impressed me. It was the fact that 5 eco-clubs from the Fremont Union High School District pooled their effort and talent together to organize this annual summit and it took place at the Fremont District Office Building! Enthusiastic students were everywhere and some parents who are interested in climate change also stayed throughout the event to observe and learn. There were workshops in 4 of the conference rooms on two floors and the students organized everything from registration, AV setup, organizing lunches, taking photos and managing the event flow. In all, there were more than 150 high school students from 5 area high schools who came out on a Saturday. (I also heard it was the date of the Prom for one of the high schools) and final exam reviews were the following week! It was hard enough to manage something at a single high school, to organize something of this scale at the district level is unheard of!
As I understood, the City of Fremont asked Silicon Valley Talent Partnership (SVTP) to both help FIERCE to organize the summit and SVTP helped to recruit keynote speakers, panelists and workshop leaders. The FIERCE Summit 2.0 started off with Owen Shen,
the President of FIERCE who introduced Fremont’s councilmember Vinnie Bacon, who also worked as an environmental engineer in his early career. Owen then introduced the executive director of Silicon Valley Talent Partnership, Lea King, who had spent over 30 years in the private industry. Lea introduces Bobby Ram, who is the Managing Director of SunPower Corporation.
With his passion of Solar Technology, Bobby delivered a light-hearted and informative keynote. Next was a panel of sustainability experts including Geno Uliana (Environmental Services, City of Fremont), Lou Ramondetta (CEO, Surplus Service), Lisa Altieri (Founder, Community Climate Solutions), Vinnie Bacon and Declan Shalvey (Advisor, Yellowtin).
Throughout the panel discussion, students were asking in-depth environmental related questions and participated in engaging discussion with the panelists. It is not hard to see that these students are extremely motivated and actually care for the environment. A question asked by a student attendee, “While there is definite evidence to prove global warming exists, what is the evidence to prove that climate change is in fact happening?” I couldn’t believe these were high school students! I thought I was sitting in a Stanford auditorium!
With the help of Silicon Valley Talent Partnership, FIERCE recruited several workshop leaders: T.R. Tamachandran (CEO, Kanvz), Lou Ramondetta, Lisa Altieri, Geno Uliana, Grace Park-Bradbury (Community Outreach, OhmConnect), David Kay (Business Analyst, Memphis Meats), Mark Spencer (Senior program manager, Stop Waste), and Declan Shalvey (Advisor, Yellowtin). Every single workshop leader is not only fully engaged in their presentation, but also created opportunities to interact with the students. The post event evaluate further prove the point that students learned most when they interacted with the subject matter experts.
Although the FIERCE Green Summit took place in Fremont, I can see the possibility of it spreading to other cities in the Bay Area. All it requires was a supportive City, caring adults in the community, a non profit like Silicon Valley Talent Partnership and a group of highly charged, motivated and passionate high school students! I believe it will make a huge difference in creating awareness environmental issues such as climate change, waste water management, food rescue, recycling, solar and transportation. If every high school student were as motivated to protect our environment as FIERCE attendees, our world would definitely be a better place and our earth would be greener.