On a college interview recently, I was asked to describe a notable accomplishment from my high school career. I immediately thought of one. It wasn’t exactly an accomplishment in the traditional sense, though. I told my interviewer that I had a short story to share, but I wasn’t sure if it met the criteria. She said she was an English major who loved short stories. I began.
It started in ninth grade history. One of the first things that struck me about my teacher was how much physical paper he printed and distributed to the class. Unlike many of his colleagues who had started to use Google Classroom and similar online resources, his assignments were all hard copies. We received countless other handouts throughout the year, totaling two full three-inch binders worth of paper. It was a whole lot of paper. I couldn’t justify why we needed it all when most of the documents could be distributed online, a much more efficient and environmentally-friendly process.
Within my peers, I’ve always had a reputation for being passionate and outspoken about issues I care about. No matter how small, if something strikes me as unjust or wrong, I do something about it. So naturally, I had to speak up about the injustice that is wasting paper. Throughout the year, I constantly called out my teacher for printing assignments we didn’t need. I pestered him about opening a Google Classroom. I joked that in June, our class would plant a forest to make up for the poor trees whose paper he had wasted.
My efforts did come to fruition when I had the same teacher in tenth grade. He began to assign all essays and homework online. He consciously tried to decrease the amount of one-time-use handouts. By the end of the year, my single three-inch binder was barely full. It was a noticeable improvement from the year prior, and indicative of my success in creating change.
And finally, if there couldn’t be a more perfect end to this story: this teacher became the advisor for my school’s new recycling club.
Why do I tell this story? It’s a perfect example of how one person can have an impact. It’s proof that my voice mattered, even in a small way. And to other teenage girls and high school students, it’s a reminder that your voice matters, too. Use it.
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