“Save the Earth”: Join These Local High Schoolers’ Passionate Cry For Change

Carol Yao, Staff Reporter

Puharich shouting into a megaphone in front of a crowd at the September 20th strike. Image courtesy of Kate Puharich

During the week of September 20, 2019, millions of people worldwide gathered with banners, chanting in protest against politicians’ and large corporations’ disregard for the environment. People have heard about Greta Thunberg, the global climate strike, and the United Nations Climate Change Summit: topics that many people in Deerfield and Chicago still care very deeply about. Many believe that it is essential for the younger generation to get involved and inform themselves on these issues worldwide. Thanks to many local and nationally praised organizations, it is now easier than ever for high school students to get involved in the environment and more issues that they care about.

Freshman Kate Puharich has become very involved in strikes and protests, mostly having to deal with the environment. She has been mentioned by several mainstream media sites such as Glamour Magazine and the Chicago Tribune. Kate has organized two strikes so far, including the Black Friday Strike and the December 6th Strike at The Bean. On Black Friday, Puharich was joined by a large number of protesters as they marched with banners and songs at Water Tower Place where all protesters were ultimately kicked out. On December 6th, thousands of people gathered at The Bean sculpture in downtown Chicago to protest politicians’ lack of action on climate change.

Puharich has been able to do all of this as an ambassador for the Illinois Youth Climate Strike (ILYCS) through its ambassador program for local high schools. The Illinois Youth Climate Strike is a chapter of the larger U.S. Youth Climate Strike who organize strikes from schools to put pressure on the government to take more action on the climate crisis.

Puharich was able to continue with her protest through her diet. “I turned vegetarian about a year ago. It was first because of the animals-then I saw the environmental impact. When I did more research, I learned how big a problem this actually was and I was so surprised that I didn’t really know much about it so I really just wanted to learn more.” She then joined a smaller separate organization which then led to her discovery of the Illinois Youth Climate Strike. Puharich is now on their core team and “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,’’ she says. “I love everyone so much and it’s really the best way I could ever make an impact and I’m so happy.”

Several Illinois high schools have joined the fight with the ILYCS for change on this global issue and Deerfield High School is one of those schools. The ILYCS is a simple way for students to get involved on the issues that they care about locally such as climate change or politicians. Puharich says her favorite strike so far has been the December 6th Strike at The Bean in downtown Chicago. She commented that it was “such a cool experience and there’s nothing really like it.”

Participating in strikes like these will also help boost your credentials on your resume or help with future opportunities in the workforce and in college. Isabella Johnson, the ILYCS State Lead states, “Yes, they [colleges] love to see it in your application.” However, school credit and accolades can’t be the only motive to becoming involved in a program like this, passion and intellectual curiosity are also required. Johnson explanation: “People need to realize we’re not doing this for college, we’re doing it because we don’t see it as a choice, we have to be involved because the

Protesters marching in front of The Bean in downtown Chicago. Image courtesy of Kate Puharich

adults aren’t doing anything.” Puharich also highly recommends going to strikes, even if they aren’t affiliated with the ILYCS. “There’s nothing really like it,” she admits.

ILYCS isn’t the only way to get involved in environmental issues at DHS. The Earthworks club is for individuals that are passionate about helping the environment locally. They are in charge of the school recycling system and have helped locally with many service projects. In the past, they have partnered with the Village of Deerfield to help plant trees around town and clean up the slough at DHS. Earthworks is also responsible for many school-wide events such as America Recycles Day and Earth Day activities. They can be seen every Wednesday after school emptying the recycling bins in all the classrooms.

“There has never been a more necessary time for kids like us to get involved,’’ Puharich states. It is very easy to get involved anywhere anytime. Anyone interested in attending an ILYCS strike can join thousands of student activists and citizens of Chicago on April 24 2020, for the Earth Day Strike. The ambassadors of ILYCS have been working nonstop to make this strike the biggest yet–“Because we want people to see our problem and act on it,” Puharich explains. The ILYCS recommends that students spread awareness about their cause and the issues that they’re fighting for.