If you’re a college student or you know a student who wants a real hands-on experience and training in environmental organizing and activism, check out the Greenpeace Semester – the application deadline for the 2011 fall semester  is this Monday, May 16.

 I spend a lot of time thinking about getting young people involved in the environmental activism. When I think about the Greenpeace Semester, I think most of the individuals who join the program and make it so great.  Tyler McFarland is one of those people.

 Tyler came to the Greenpeace Semester from Rye, NH.  Passionate about climate change, mountaintop removal, and over-fishing, Tyler wanted to take a gap year between high school and college to gain some experience working on these issues.  The Greenpeace Semester seemed like a good fit.

During his Semester, Tyler spent the first few weeks hearing from campaign staff at Greenpeace about current critical issues and learning some fundamental skills for campaigning and organizing. Then he and his class spent two weeks traveling in the greater Philadelphia area, working on our campaign to protect the Paradise Forests from destruction for palm oil plantations.  The group recruited volunteers to join them, held several demonstrations (in orangutan suits!), and certainly got the attention of Pizza Hut restaurant managers (Pizza Hut’s parent company, YUM! has close ties to deforestation.   

Near the end of the semester, the group traveled to the UN climate change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, learned firsthand about the international negotiation process and met other groups working on climate change from around the world.  All in all, the semester was a unique opportunity for Tyler to work closely with a group of other committed student activists, learn important activist skills, and put them to use by working on real issues.

And what’s Tyler doing now?  He’s spent the last four months as an intern with Greenpeace, working at the equipment center in Washington D.C., getting an even greater understanding of how Greenpeace actions help to effectively fight for the planet (and taking the chance to improve his climbing skills).

Tyler’s headed off to University of Vermont in the fall, and I can’t wait to hear about what he’ll do in the future.  Thanks for your great work, Tyler!  We’re glad you found the Greenpeace Semester.

Mary Sweeters is the Director of the Greenpeace Semester.