Michelle Tang - Class of 2013, Alma Verde Afterschool Program Coordinator
Quote: "And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected." --John Steinbeck
"I first read East of Eden by John Steinbeck the summer before my junior year of high school. It quickly became one of my favorite books and I went through it quickly (I also had to read Moby Dick that summer and that didn't go by nearly as fast). The impact it has had on my life has been indirect, but I continue to love the message behind the book of the freedom of the individual. Timshel, the Hebrew word mentioned in the book translated to "Thou mayest," which to me has always meant that you have a choice in what you want to think and believe and the direction you wish to take with these choices. Whatever you are interested in; pursue it, even if it is not the easiest way to go. Especially if it is not the easiest way to go. "My junior year of high school, I created an environmental club called Conservation Corporation with a group of my friends. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done because it was started from nothing-just an idea we dreamt of amongst friends on the swim team. I learned a lot about myself, others, and what my interests I would continue to work with in college were. By the end of high school, the club had created a successful campus recycling program, held a successful "Eco Fashion Show", and won first place at the Sustainability Decathlon amongst other high school environmental groups in the area. I cannot tell you how hard that first year with the club was-we all wanted to quit at times, but we didn't. And that second year was amazing-so I'm glad we made the choice to not give up something we were interested in. "It has certainly prepared me for the type of "from-the-ground-up", tiring, yet rewarding work I am still participating in today, especially working with Bronco Urban Gardens at the Alma Verde after-school program. My co-workers and I have managed to take a list of suggestions from parents in the community to provide a program for some amazing kids and their families. We have made countless changes and improvements over the past school year, and I'm expecting we'll probably make a few more. It is definitely not the easiest thing a sophomore in college could be doing with her free time, but I love the work we are doing. I'm grateful for the opportunity to be blending both my interests in education and the environment as an environmental educator during my time in college so far-and I'm looking forward to many more years of work!"