South Orangetown Central School District

Tappan Zee High School’s ninth-grade English team — Susan Gleeson, Bridget Erickson, Riley Chevrier, Kristen Driscoll and Kerry Freeley — are collaborating with Patty Eyer on a new teen activism project.

The research-based project was inspired by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg and takes this quote as its guiding principle: “Fed up with waiting for the older generation to sort out its problems, a growing number of teenage activists are taking matters into their own hands. Young people like Greta Thunberg possess the grit to effect change in their world.”

Eyer, Freeley and Gleeson launched the project last week and are meeting twice-weekly via Zoom with students to support them through the research process. Students have already begun discovering teen activists and learning about the causes that they advocate for; this week, they’ll choose one as the subject of their project. Along the way, they’re strengthening their web-based research skills, honing their writing

“The project shows us that teens like us can make an impact on our world and future. I have seen teens the same age as me doing incredible work to get their voices heard,” says freshman Olivia S. who chose to profile Xiye Bastida. “Xiye is a 17-year-old who immigrated to New York City from Mexico and devotes herself to raising awareness of the climate crisis. She also participates in the Fridays for Future climate organizations and attends many protests. She’s very inspirational and it’s admirable to be so devoted to a cause and want to change our future for the better. I think this project will benefit all the students working on it because it will spark some motivation for change in all of us.”

Ninth-grader Catherine G. appreciates the opportunity to focus on a subject that she is passionate about and researched both Ellen Jones and Amika George before deciding on Emma Gonzalez. “We are encouraged to look at these issues from a neutral perspective, which allows us to see what these issues really are about,” she states.

Joaquin S., who is profiling Thunberg, was struck by her convictions. “Young activists actually care about the problems that occur in our world,” he says. “I was inspired by her actions to stop climate change, such as becoming a vegan, refusing to travel by airplane, and missing school to sit outside the country’s parliament with a sign that read ‘School Strike for Climate’ at the age of 15 years old.”

Susan Gleeson, Kerry Freeley and Patty Eyer