From Folger to SPHS, Students Grow With Earth Day Festival

By Judy Tacyn

When Severna Park High School seniors Sarah Smith and Sophie Magyarosi needed to choose their capstone project this year as part of the high school Leadership Institute, their decision had been made for a decade. Sarah and Sophie have been friends since they first met at Folger McKinsey Elementary School and are active in the community’s annual Earth Day Festival. The girls naturally chose to lead Severna Park High School’s involvement in Earth Day 2022 activities.

“We’ve been involved with Earth Day as participants and volunteers since elementary school,” Sophie said, “so we’re really excited to finally have the opportunity to be on the other side as part of the planning.”

Sarah calls it a full circle moment. “We are both very enthusiastic about the environment and the festival,” he said. “It’s great to be a part of Earth Day and help bring the community together and share education around protecting our environment.”

Festival organizer Chris Myers is thrilled to be working with Sarah and Sophie again. Myers worked in an office at Folger McKinsey and first met the girls there. Myers also believes that the festival’s growth is partly due to the high school bringing more students and student leaders to the event.

Through the Leadership Program, students coordinate a group of lower grade students and assist the event as they study aspects of project management, logistics, and marketing.

“Student engagement has led to the considerable growth of the annual event and embodies sustainability as we continue to grow leaders and partners to bring this festival to fruition each year,” said Myers. “[This year’s student project leaders] Sarah and Sophie are amazing and dedicated. It’s exciting because they’ve been involved with the Folger Green School program for a long time, and now I can work with them again in this capacity – it’s inspiring and fulfilling.”

Sarah and Sophie said they had three goals for the Earth Day project. First, they learn how to market events through social media but also through printed posters and signs in and around high schools. Second, they set a goal of recruiting at least 20 volunteers by offering hours of service for participation. Third, they hope to inspire other students to be just as passionate about conservation and recycling by running a booth at the festival where people can donate used or unwanted books. They started their business plan in the spring of 2021.

“We researched the environmental impact of books and were very surprised to learn how many books are burned or thrown into landfills each year,” Sarah said. “We want to educate people on how they can bring their books and textiles back to life either through donations or recycling.”

Sarah and Sophie managed 12 underclassmen, also in the Leadership Program, and recruited an additional 30 volunteers.

At the book donation booth, festival participants can choose a donated book to take home and read. Books not brought home during the event are donated to schools in Baltimore or taken to the bookstore behind the Severna Park Library. Books donated through book drops are resold, reconditioned or recycled, so that all the books Sarah and Sophie collect find new life and new readers or are recycled, and not allowed to negatively impact the environment.

The senior friends are still deciding which college they will go to after their high school graduation this May, but they are both adamant that their environmental focus will not end here.

“I plan to be involved in preservation, conservation and recycling at clubs or activities at college,” Sarah said. “I will definitely study environmental science. I am very interested in studying human interactions with the environment.”

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