Class of 2017: Environmental activism drives Yarmouth High School senior

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YARMOUTH — “Senioritis,” the infamous end-of-high-school disease, has no place in Isabella Pardales’ life.

The Yarmouth High School senior, who graduates with the Class of 2017 at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 4, decided during her second semester to pursue independent study, which blends her interests in art, the environment and teaching.

She gets class credit for what she called a “culminating senior project,” something that’s afforded her “a great opportunity that I never really expected to have.”

Pardales’ project website can be seen online at y2017isapar.wixsite.com/independentstudy.

The three project elements reflect various experiences Pardales has had, such as a summer spent teaching youths about environmental education at Maine Audubon and the Yarmouth Farmers Market. Through the Winslow Homer High School Fellowship, she was also involved with youth programming last summer at the Portland Museum of Art.

Environmental causes comprise a major passion in Pardales’ life, particularly through her involvement the past two years with the Maine chapter of the Sierra Club, a grassroots environmental group. While attending a summer training program with the Sierra Student Coalition, she met activists from all over the U.S.

Through the club she helped organize and secure funds for two buses to transport Mainers to D.C. last month for the People’s Climate March, which she called “a really powerful and inspirational event.”

Pardales said she “got inspired to start taking initiatives within my own school … and that just inspired everything that I have been working on for the past few years.”

For instance, Pardales introduced a “Take Back the Tap” campaign at Yarmouth High, through which more than 60 reusable water bottles were sold in one week to students during lunches. The initiative was inspired by the school’s Green Voices Society and the Global Action Club.

Take Back the Tap hosted a screening of the documentary “Tapped” at the school auditorium in February, which convinced many students to reconsider using bottled water, Pardales said. She is applying for a grant through the Green Allies group, funds from which would help offset school revenue lost if bottled water sales were banned at YHS, and which would fund a bottle-filling station in the cafeteria.

“Bottled water is a perfect example of a way that an everyday person can help the environment,” Pardales said, noting that only one in five bottles are actually recycled, “so when you think about the amount of bottled water that we’re consuming, and the amount that is actually not recycled, and the energy that it takes to produce those plastic bottles … it’s not just not an environmentally-friendly action.”

More than 40 percent of bottles actually just contain tap water, she added, noting that switching to tap “is just one very small change in your life that can really make a big impact.”

Pardales, a leader through YHS’s Outing Club, plans to take up environmental studies with an eye toward pre-law, as well as studio art, at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York.

“I would love to work in the environmental activism world, and the nonprofit world,” said Pardales. She also wants to continue with the Sierra Club, where she hopes to one day be employed, she said, noting her interest in working with museums as well.

“I hope to maybe find a job where I can combine my passions in art and the environment,” Pardales said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Isabella Pardales channeled her love of art, the environment, and teaching through an independent study at Yarmouth High School this year. Her environmental activism work includes the “Take Back the Tap” campaign she introduced at the school.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.