When Severna Park High School seniors Sarah Smith and Sophie Magyarosi needed to select their capstone project this year as part of the high school’s Leadership Institute, their decision was a decade in the making. Sarah and Sophie have been friends since they first met at Folger McKinsey Elementary School and were active in the community’s annual Earth Day Festival. The girls naturally chose to lead Severna Park High School’s involvement in Earth Day 2022 activities.
“We’ve been involved with Earth Day as attendees and volunteers since elementary school,” said Sophie, “so we were really excited to get a chance to be on the other side finally as part of the planning.”
Sarah called it a full-circle moment. “We are both very passionate about the environment and this festival,” she said. “It’s very gratifying to be part of Earth Day and helping to bring the community together and share education around taking care of our environment.”
Festival co-organizer Chris Myers was thrilled to be able to work with Sarah and Sophie again. Myers works in the office at Folger McKinsey and first met the girls there. Myers also believes that the growth of the festival is due in part to the high school bringing more students and student leaders into the event.
Through the Leadership Program, students coordinate a group of underclassmen and help with the event as they learn aspects of project management, logistics and marketing.
“Student involvement has led to considerable growth of the annual event and embodies sustainability in that we continue to grow leaders and partners to bring the festival to fruition each year,” Myers said. “[This year’s student project leaders] Sarah and Sophie are wonderful and dedicated. It’s exciting because they were involved with the Folger Green School program way back when, and now I get to work with them again in this capacity - it’s inspiring and gratifying.”
Sarah and Sophie said that they had three goals for the Earth Day project. First, they learned how to market the event through social media but also through printed posters and signs in and around the high school. Second, they set a goal of recruiting at least 20 volunteers by offering service hours for participation. Third, they hoped to inspire other students to be as passionate about conservation and recycling as they are by managing a booth at the festival where people could donate used or unwanted books. They started their business plan in the spring of 2021.
“We researched the environmental impact of books and were really surprised to find out how many books are either incinerated or thrown into landfills every year,” Sarah said. “We wanted to educate people on the ways they can give their books and textiles a new life either through donation or recycling.”
Sarah and Sophie managed 12 underclassmen, also in the Leadership Program, and recruited an additional 30 volunteers.
At their book donation booth, festival participants could select a donated book to take home and read. Books not rehomed during the event were either donated to schools in Baltimore or taken to the book drop behind the Severna Park Library. Books donated through the book drop are either resold, rehomed or recycled, so all of the books collected by Sarah and Sophie found new life and new readers or were recycled, and not left to negatively impact the environment.
The senior friends are still deciding which colleges they will attend following their high school graduation this May, but they are both adamant that their environmental focus won’t end here.
“I plan on being involved in preservation, conservation and recycling in clubs or activities in college,” Sarah said. “I’ll definitely study environmental science. I’m especially interested in studying human interaction with the environment.”
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