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The Oregonian

Green Champion: A Teen Teaches Environmental Practices To Children In Puerto Rico


August 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

Summary: A teen teaches environmental practices to children in Puerto Rico

At 14, Jessica Wright is something of an international environmental crusader.

Wright, who will be a freshman at Sherwood High School, returned this month from Vieques, Puerto Rico, where she was helping to teach recycling and sound environmental practices to children.

The environment and how to fix it have been a passion of hers since the fifth grade, she says, when a teacher at Sherwood's Archer Glen Elementary School inspired her.

While Wright was in elementary school, she met Julie Magers, who directed Cascade Earth Force, a group based at Portland State University's Center for Science Education. The group directs environmental programs in the Portland area and trains youths to learn and promote lifelong environmental habits. Children 10 to 15 work on such problems as Willamette River water quality, animal abuse and neglect, and lack of green spaces in their communities.

Magers visited Archer Glen to recruit students for the group's youth advisory board, which Wright served on for three years. Through her involvement with the Cascade Earth Force, Wright learned about the Stone Soup for a New World book and project, and of its author, Marianne Larned.

Wright applied to a program sponsored by the Stone Soup Leadership Institute, an arm of the nonprofit Stone Soup Foundation, which was leading a trip to Puerto Rico. The institute aims to provide technical assistance and training around the world to foster healthier communities.

Wright was the youngest person to take part in the program July 24 though Aug. 1 in Puerto Rico.

During her time in Vieques, Wright says, she met with about 30 children on the small island for about eight hours a day. She and others in the program sought to inspire the youths to begin environmental and recycling programs in their communities.

"We were just basically showing them how to start a recycling program," she says.

Her time in Puerto Rico was inspiring because she learned how eager people were to improve their communities, she says, even though they had little material wealth. People in the United States, with vastly greater resources, should be able to do much more, she says.

Closer to home, she says, she wants to start a recycling program within the Sherwood school system.

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