WHITTAKER

Whittaker

2019 Graduate, Santa Cruz High School
There were some hecklers in the crowd that caused me to rethink the entire project. But, I know that the majority opinion was that the event went well and inspired many.

How and when did you first learn about the climate crisis?
2017, my junior year, when the first big studies had just come out, across all social media platforms. 

What compelled you to organize an action and/or begin speaking about the climate crisis?
The year before, my girlfriend, Daniela Werlin-Martínez and friends had organized a walkout at Santa Cruz High in response to the Parkland, Florida school shooting. When the time came around the next year, I knew that this problem must be addressed and given public attention in my community.

Had you participated in direct action (demonstrations, strikes, rallies, etc.) before engaging in the climate movement?
Yes. Gun Control, Reproductive Rights, Immigration; I believe that no one human is illegal (especially on stolen land), that women deserve the right to choose, and students in the United States should not die at a higher percentage than soldiers in combat. 

How have your peers responded when you have asked them to participate in a demonstration with you?
Some were skeptical in terms of the effectiveness of a walkout, some don’t even believe in climate change. Most were encouraging, excited and ready to fight. 

Have your family and friends been supportive? Why or why not?
My friends are my rock. When I first brought up this idea, they all immediately offered to help with flyers, art, organizing, anything and everything. My family has always supported me in speaking up and out about injustice, and I feel like they are proud of me, which feels so good. 

Have teacher(s) and/or administrator(s) at your school been supportive of your organizing and leadership efforts? How, why, or why not?
Every teacher I encountered during the time in which the walkout was being organized was willing to help out in any way, whether that was providing supplies, or excusing students so that their attendance would not negatively be affected by leaving class. The first two teachers I talked to about this were Ms. Palumbo and Ms. Adams, as they were there for the event from the beginning stages of organizing to actually being present at the rally. I would like to thank Rishi Lal, our vice principal, as well for encouraging us to fight against injustice at our school and providing us support, supplies and advice whenever we need it. 

The only resistance that we received in terms of planning was from the district, as they worried about the civil disobedience aspect. I went to administration telling them this would take place, pretty much whether they liked it or not, so it wasn’t much of a problem, as most staff were excited. 

Please describe any worries you had while planning a past action or speech and/or worries you have about planning future actions.
At the walkout against climate change at my school, there were some hecklers in the crowd that caused me to rethink the entire project. But, I know that the majority opinion was that the event well and inspired many. I know now that you can’t always please everyone, and to focus on how something went well, and what it gave people. 

What things might you do differently if you decided to organize another action or speak at another event?
I would create the event earlier in advance and give myself more time for organizing, as well as publicizing, opening it up to an entire city at a more accessible space. 

Which of the following might be helpful contributions from an adult advisory circle?
Securing necessary permits, Creating community partnerships, Distributing flyers, Issuing press releases, Listening to / helping with youth speeches, Arranging meetings with elected officials, etc.

Is there anything else that you would like to share about yourself? 
I love to read and be in nature, especially the beach. I love my dogs and fish, and the women I find most inspiring are Frida Khalo, my mom, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I will be attending Goucher College in the fall and graduating in 2023, then attending law school to become a public defense lawyer. Thank you so much for reading about me and this event.

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