Two BHS juniors participate in ‘People’s Climate March’ in New York

By Alexandra Gruszkiewicz, Bearden HS, Knoxville, Tenn.

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 Bearden juniors Mallari Starrett and Alicia Matavosian join the "People's Climate March" in New York.

Mallari Starrett
Bearden juniors Mallari Starrett and Alicia Matavosian join the “People’s Climate March” in New York.

Once Mallari Starrett and Alicia Matavosian found out that they could take part in a march against climate change, they were in.

“We both just looked at each other the moment we heard about it and said ‘yes, we’re definitely doing this,’” Matavosian said.

On Friday in New York City, about 400,000 activists, students, scientists, and celebrities walked 50 blocks from Central Park past the UN building to support environmentally-friendly policies in an effort to end climate change. Called the “People’s Climate March,” this came at the same time as the 2014 UN Climate Summit, where leaders and ambassadors from around the world discussed environmental issues.

During the march, the Bearden juniors held up their signs, yelled, and chanted with the other marchers.

“We are reaching a very critical state right now,” Starrett said. “If we do not start making drastic change, we are going to experience drastic change in response.”

We both just looked at each other the moment we heard about it and said ‘yes, we’re definitely doing this.”

— Alicia Matavosian

Among the marchers were celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and conservationist Jane Goodall. The juniors also saw people dressed as polar bears and people wearing suits to represent business participation.

Although the People’s Climate March is a recent event, Matavosian said that the two have been environmentalists for years. In addition to Starrett and Matavosian being the president and vice president, respectively, of Bearden’s environmental club, they are also Knoxville’s county coordinators for the Tennessee Youth Environmental Network (TennYEN). Founded and run by high school students, TennYEN involves students from different schools meeting to discuss environmental issues and getting other students interested in environmentalism.

It was at a TennYEN environmental camp last summer that Starrett and Matavosian heard about the People’s Climate March. When a speaker mentioned it, it set the wheels in motion for them to be part of a caravan headed to New York City.

In the Climate March, Starrett and Matavosian said that they wanted to represent not only themselves, but also Bearden and Knoxville.

“On the back of my sign, I had about 20 or 30 names that I was proudly representing,” Starrett said. “I was overall representing Bearden High School and Knoxville, Tennessee and the youth from there.”

Environmental club sponsor Mrs. Tonya Henke said that Starrett and Matavosian are the driving force of Bearden’s environmental club.

“They are probably two of the most involved, enthusiastic leaders I’ve ever had, and I’ve been sponsor of the environmental club since I’ve been at Bearden,” Henke said. “I couldn’t ask for better officers for my club.”

Both Starrett and Matavosian said that they want to eventually become veterinarians. Starrett also said that in college, she also wants to study environmental engineering, noting that environmentalism covers many other areas of study.

“Environmental science is a very wide science because we’re all on the earth,” Starrett said. “All our problems are on the earth, so it makes sense that we have to fight for it.”

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