By Katie Ryu
In a time rampant with empty promises and words unaccompanied by actions, junior Cameran Child stands out. It’s one thing to say you care about the environment and sustainability, but it’s another for your actions to actually reflect those beliefs. The latter is overwhelmingly true for Child.
Child has always felt some connection with nature, but that it wasn’t until freshman year that she was able to delve into environmentalism in a deeper sense. Child’s biology class was the start of her journey. During that time, she began to engage in personal research, learning more and more about the urgency of the problems she was studying at school. Her sophomore chemistry class only furthered her scientific knowledge and interest.
“We learned a lot about amazing habitats, species, and systems of the planet while simultaneously learning about the threats humans are posing onto just about every aspect of the environment. When you observe all of the resiliency and beauty of the planet and the ecosystems within it, it becomes almost a no-brainer to fight for sustainability and conservation of the only Earth we have,” Child said.
She graciously credits her science classes and teachers for helping progress her environmental passions. From learning about coral reefs in such a way that genuinely inspired her freshman self to working on a paper recycling project with her classmates the year after, Child became increasingly driven about taking action for the planet. This year, she’s taking Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science with Wendy Hagan. Notably, Hagan is not only her science teacher, but also her Envirothon adviser.
Envirothon is an environmentally-themed academic competition. The Granada Hills Charter (GHC) Envirothon team learns about specific aspects of the environment, as well as a “Current Issue” topic that changes yearly. The four disciplines are Forestry, Wildlife, Aquatics, and Soils. Child specializes in Forestry and Aquatics.
“In Forestry, we measure trees and learn the different kinds of trees in our area. Also, we learn about forests, the forest ecosystem, life stages of trees, and things of that nature. In the Aquatics discipline we study water quality, the water cycle, systems of water and water bodies, aquatic species, and so on. In person, we can measure real trees and do sample labs, but online we are still able to study and make presentations as a team which is amazing,” Child said.
But it’s not just in school that Child acts on her concern for the environment. For one, she went vegan two years ago after discovering the detrimental effects of the meat and dairy industry on the environment. More recently, she took the initiative to participate in Project Green Challenge (PGC).
PGC is a “call to action [that] features 30 days of environmentally-themed challenges to touch lives, shift mindsets, and equip students with knowledge, resources and mentorship to lead the change on campuses and in communities,” according to its webpage. This is an annual competition, and for the month of October, high school, college, and graduate school students engage in challenges centered on topics ranging from soil to fast fashion to biodiversity. Participants accumulate points by completing the challenges and uploading submissions for each day’s activity.
Finalists are selected by PGC judges, and Child became one of 16 finalists this year. They were chosen from over 4,000 participants from all 50 states and a total of 85 different countries. As a finalist, she won a three-day trip to San Francisco for an eco-summit, a PGC Deluxe Lifestyle Package with a variety of organic and zero-waste products, and a donation to the World Land Trust in her name.
“I wanted to participate in Project Green Challenge mainly because I was excited to find a challenge that involves making environmental changes in my own life. It was cool that it was not school or grade based, rather something fun and empowering to participate in and see lasting change in yourself and the planet. I wanted to see what more I could learn and all the different themes for each daily challenge made me excited to participate,” Child said.
She was selected as a finalist based on her total points, depth of engagement, a final exam, and a climate action proposal. Some of Child’s accomplishments in PGC include creating her own all-purpose cleaning solution and delivering a presentation about energy conservation to her family. Child now has the chance to become the PGC Champion and be awarded the Grand Prize Package.
That said, it’s clear that Child doesn’t engage with the environment for free trips or prizes. She does it because she cares about the planet and wants to act sustainably.
“Cami is amazing. She’s my go-to whenever I need advice about anything remotely sustainable, and she’s also one of the most proactive and enthusiastic people I know. Cami is always striving to be a better person and I think she inspires everyone around her,” senior and fellow Envirothon member Shayla Pham said.
Like most teenagers her age, Child doesn’t quite know exactly what she wants to do in the future. However, she is certain that whatever it is, it will be related to environmentalism, sustainability, or environmental science. She’s particularly interested in conservation and fighting against environmental degradation. But for the time being, Child says she is still learning more about the environment every day and still making changes in her life for the planet.