In the winter of 2020, a dozen students planned an Earth Day strike in tandem with the national youth-led Sunrise movement, an organization focused on advocating for reform and education for change. climate. When Northwestern closed that spring, the event was canceled, but the organization had taken hold on campus.
The group worked so well together that its members decided to join as an official club and chapter of the Sunrise Movement. Riva Akolawala, head of communications and founding member, said the group was delighted to finally meet in person and organize events this year.
âA goal for me personally is to make sure we’re doing really impactful work and cheering a lot of people on campus,â Akolawala said. âEven though they can’t join an organization like Sunrise or something that’s focused on environmental justice in one way or another, they can engage in these kinds of topics because we make it acceptable to them. students. “
Chicago and Evanston both already had Sunrise chapters, but Akolawala said a NU chapter would make the movement more accessible to students.
In its first year, Sunrise NU focused on recruiting members, raising awareness of its mission, organizing phone banking events and appealing to lawmakers, Akolawala said. The organization is also looking to create a welcoming community space, said Genevieve Kosciolek, president of McCormick junior and Sunrise NU.
âSunrise is really about environmental justice, which includes a lot of things, but which (representing) diversity in all its forms, so I want to make sure that the central northwest is still very representative of the community,â said declared Kosciolek.
Kosciolek said she also wanted Sunrise NU to focus on promoting personal connections with nature, potentially collaborating with the garden managed by students Wild roots.
Julianna Zitron, second year Medill student was inspired to join the club when she heard about the national movement in a sociology class on the climate crisis. She said she enjoyed learning more about environmental activism at the club. In particular, Zitron remembers hearing about the Red Deal, an Indigenous climate plan that builds on the Green New Deal.
âI did a lot of research on it, even outside of the club, because it was something I had never heard of,â Zitron said. “I was glad they brought it to my attention.”
Kosciolek said she hopes Sunrise NU, one of the many environmental activism groups on campus, can collaborate more with other student organizations like Fossil Free NU, with whom they communicate regularly.
She added that one of her priorities is to ensure the club is involved in local activism beyond the NU campus.
âChicago is historically a site of many environmental justice violations, so (it’s important that we) make sure that whatever happens we are very aware of the outreach in the Northwest community and also do our own part, âKosciolek said.
Going forward, Zitron said the club plans to create a Sunrise publication to raise awareness of climate issues and practice environmental reporting. Akolawala said she hopes Sunrise NU can finally accommodate the Earth Day strike that initially inspired the club to be formed.
Kosciolek said she finds it inspiring to see what Sunrise has been able to accomplish as a youth-led movement.
âImpostor Syndrome can be a big thing at Northwestern and it’s something I struggle with a lot,â Kosciolek said. âSo it was really cool to see young people being able to create really huge impacts in an area that interests me. “
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