“How can I make the world a better place?” – As a senior in high school, I often think about how my passions will drive my future ambitions. College is right around the corner, and although I have many years to explore various disciplines, this question effects which college I attend and what major I pursue.
I’m a passionate environmental advocate, so I decided to focus my senior year at Wootton High School on getting real-life experience in the “green” field to determine if environmental policy is the most effective way to achieve my goals.
I chose the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection for my internship, because the department provides a wide variety of sustainability programs that align with my strengths and interests.
I began my internship writing for MyGreenMontgomery and wrote 3 guest blogs:
Writing blog posts for My Green Montgomery has taught me how to make content both educational and enjoyable. However, I learned that articulating my thoughts may take many revisions; the more time I dedicated to the blog, the better it became.
As Thanksgiving approached, my work turned towards the Montgomery County GreenFest. After hearing about a planning meeting, I asked to sit in and learn about the event. I decided to share some ideas that came to mind, which led to my role of GreenFest Student Liaison. I worked with high school groups through Montgomery County Public Schools—AP Environmental Science classes, Environmental Clubs, Student Governments, and School Newspapers—to share event information with as many students as possible. To address the gap between mass email and flyer distribution and direct communication, I also created a Students at GreenFest webpage.
Another objective I had was to introduce a student component to GreenFest. I decided to plan “The GreenFest Games” Sustainability Social Media Scavenger Hunt and the “High School Extravaganza” Environmental Education and Leadership Session. Hoping that incentives would encourage attendance, I coordinated with companies to provide giveaways and raffle prizes.
GreenFest was a huge success! I loved hearing EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, DEP Director Lisa Feldt, and County Executive Ike Leggett speak about how environment initiatives in Maryland and nationwide are driven by our County’s innovation and leadership.
While I was very prepared for the student-oriented activities, unfortunately, neither had the participation I aimed for. But, I learned multiple important lessons from this.
I have gained so much from my incredible experiences at DEP. Here are some of my main takeaways I will utilize moving forward.
Throughout my internship, I had the opportunity to work with staff across the Department. I have learned about many of the programs our county has to offer: Tree Montgomery, the Green Business Certification Program, stormwater management, energy, and more. Externally, I met other environmental professionals through volunteering at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo and attending the Montgomery County Energy Summit. I developed relationships that will last after my internship concludes. My Office of Sustainability coworkers and I have developed a strong community.
When I began to explore ways to support the environment in the professional world, I knew mostly about positions in government and non-profit organizations. However, I have discovered the vast array of “green” opportunities in the private sector. There are increasingly more businesses focused on developing, selling, and financing renewable energy systems. Making solar, wind, hydroelectric, and other forms of clean power economically-viable is essential for promoting sustainability, which has also expanded environmental consulting. Businesses in other areas are also putting a larger emphasis on going green, which creates further opportunities to take part in the field.
Before my internship began, I knew little about public-private partnerships. After focusing for nearly six months on GreenFest, I’ve realized why these relationships are so important. Businesses need government support and governments needs business support to promote an environmentally-conscious, growing economy. Working with companies such as Nissan, Ben & Jerry’s, and NatureBridge for GreenFest sponsorships showed me how collaboration is mutually beneficial.
When I become passionate about an idea, I quickly get working to make it a reality. While this drive has enabled me to accomplish many endeavors during my internship, I have realized how beneficial it is to get input from others. This has enhanced the quality of my blogs, led to better programming at GreenFest, and encouraged me to go outside my comfort zone and try new things.
Ultimately, the Department of Environmental Protection has provided me everything I could have asked for in an internship and more. Thank you so much to Jessica Jones for being a fantastic supervisor and mentor, and to everyone else I have had the opportunity to work and connect with. While I have learned so much about the environment, working in the professional world, and myself, my journey has just begun.
After exploring the realm of environmental policy throughout the year, I found that helping people and communities “go green” is my calling in the professional world. This Summer, I have decided to expand upon my work on global warming solutions and clean energy.
I am ecstatic to be attending my dream school, Duke University, this Fall to study Environmental Science and Policy. Let’s go Blue Devils!
Thank you again for supporting me on this amazing journey. I wish you all the best.
Sustainability Intern at the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.
Duke University Class of 2020