Kate Finneran (Spring 2008) came to the Greenpeace Semester as a student who had just learned about the importance of environmental sustainability. She’s worked on staff at Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Appalachian Voices, and is currently active in local efforts to stop tar sands mining in Utah.
Kate said this about the Semester: “Going into this program, I thought I would learn about environmental issues and do some campaign work. What I ended up getting out of it was so much more valuable. I now have the skills and the confidence to organize people around a cause, and had learned how to pass those skills on. I also discovered the importance of collective effort, and that we must learn how to unite people in order to tackle the major problems that face the earth today.”
Jessica Serrante (Summer 2008), graduated from the University of Vermont with a degree in Environmental Studies. Jess took her skills from the Greenpeace Semester to help create change on her campus and community. She co-taught “Environmental Organizing and Effective Activism” at UVM for her senior thesis with Semester alumnus Connor Gibson, taught in New Orleans for Teach for America, completed a fellowship with Greenpeace, and now works to protect critically endangered tropical forest with Rainforest Action Network (RAN).
Jess said this about her time with the Greenpeace Semester: “Working with a fellow Greenpeace Semester alumnus on the campaign to save the Boreal Forest inspired me to learn more about the ins and outs of organizing; seeing the impact that a small group of students had drove my passion for activism and organizing. I applied for the Greenpeace Semester in hopes of learning how to successfully organize on campus, how to inspire the same enthusiasm in my peers, and how to help my peers develop their own leadership and organizing skills as I did throughout the campaign.”
Connor Gibson (Spring 2009) now works on Greenpeace's research team. He specializes in corporate polluter watchdog work, exposing public relations efforts to create doubt over climate change science and tracking how oil and coal industry money influences government. Connor previously was an intern for the Greenpeace Semester and was a charter member of the Greenpeace Student Board. He co-taught a class at the University of Vermont with Semester alumna Jessica Serrante titled "Environmental Organizing and Effective Activism" for his senior thesis project, which earned top honors in May 2010.
Connor explains how the Greenpeace Semester led him to his current work: "My phenomenal time as a Greenpeace student had a lot to do with opportunities the organization provides for those willing to pursue their interests. After working hard with my fellow semester students to bring DC students to Power Shift 2009 and protesting among thousands of people for the 'Capitol Climate Action,' a group of us traveled to New York City to document the shadowy activity of career global warming deniers as they met at a conference funded by coal and oil interests. The importance of directly confronting those who are paid to confuse the public over something as dangerous as global climate change stuck with me ever since, and now it's my job to prevent and document the climate crimes that are affecting us all."
Dana Johnson (Spring 2009) studied sociology at West Virigina University. Dana left the Semester and took on a Campus Coordinator position with our Student Network, working with his school’s Sustainability Office to improve sustainability on his campus.
Dana said this of his time in the Greenpeace Semester: “Within the first few days and weeks of work, I felt empowered: learning about the way our natural world works in various aspects, how it was being altered and changed (often for the worse), then going into communities to spread that knowledge I just gained and educate others. Reaching people from all walks of life, across the nation and the globe, I felt like a part of the solution as opposed to a part of the problem.”
Christina-Alexa Liakos (Fall 2006), a graduate of Green Mountain College, took what she learned in the program and made a direct impact on her campus, greatly improving the sustainability policy on campus paper purchasing. After graduation she joined Green Corps, an environmental leadership program for young professionals, and organized against coal in Ohio and Alaska. She then was a program coordinator with the Greenpeace Semester for a few years, training nearly 100 students in the same critical skills she had learned. She moved back to Alaska where she is the organizing director at Alaskans First, a coalition of local groups fighting the development of strip mining in the state.
Here is what Christina-Alexa had to say about her experience as a student in the program: "The Greenpeace Semester far exceeded my expectations. I was given the opportunity to gain not only the skills and tools I needed to effectively organize and run a campaign, but I also was able to apply those skills and gain first-hand experience with Greenpeace USA and International. I can only hope that by continuing to share my knowledge and experiences from the Greenpeace Semester with other students, you and I and the rest of the youth generation will begin to not only discuss change, but work to see it happen together."
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