Photo: EnAct students take part in the Canoe Cleanup in 2019
The student-run Princeton Day School Environmental Action club (EnAct) has an impressive record of environmental activism and awareness-raising efforts, and is energized to continue its work in 2020-2021. This year marks the 30-year anniversary of the founding of EnAct, placing it among the longest tenured school-run clubs of its kind in the nation.
The founding faculty advisor of EnAct is Liz Cutler, the School's longtime Sustainability Coordinator (and US English teacher, currently on sabbatical). Ms. Cutler has helped guide hundreds of students over the years to explore environmental issues and causes that they find meaningful and to proactively facilitate change. EnAct students have organized and/or participated in countless events over the years, including on- and off-campus activities to address global climate action, ongoing efforts to help create a greener School community, running 'The Great Giveaway,' in which lightly-used school materials are donated, helping host the School's annual Harvest Festival, and playing the lead role in developing New Jersey's premier climate summit for high school students each year.
Photo: EnAct students participate in "The Great Giveaway" in 2017.
Beyond finding and expressing their voices in support of environmental causes, one of the fundamental aspects of EnAct is to cultivate student leaders. Ms. Cutler explains, "EnAct does not have a vertical structure, but rather a horizontal structure where every student is empowered to explore their individual passions and to organize activities. Everyone has room to be a leader and to express their voice, which leads to a lot of organic leadership training."
Many alumni have gone on to careers in environmental advocacy sparked during their time in EnAct at Princeton Day School, such as Zach Woogan '15, an environmental engineer who visited with EnAct students last year on campus, and Marissa Vahlsing '01, an environmental lawyer working for EarthRights International since 2011.
Photo: The PDS Harvest Festival last year
The equitable distribution of student responsibility is evident in the perspectives of current EnAct student co-heads Abby Weinstein '21, Holly Teti '21 and Hope Jerris '21. "As a student leader of the club, members can come to me with ideas that they have and I can work hard to make them happen. Being a student leader also means that I am one of the first faces that people see and I need to lead by example," Hope shared.
Abby reflected, "I don’t really see myself as being ‘in charge’ in any way. I care about ensuring that everyone in EnAct has a positive experience—that they feel like they can make a difference. Personally, I believe that that is one of the most powerful things a leader can do."
"Ms. Cutler's passion for the environment and sustainability is contagious. Her passion was evident from day one and she brought it to everything we did in EnAct. It really empowered us to bring our ideas to life and make a difference," Holly noted.
While Ms. Cutler is on sabbatical, EnAct's Upper School science teachers Kim Collura and Brian Mayer are serving as the club's faculty advisors. Club leadership is hopeful that EnAct will continue to make an impact this year despite any limitations imposed by COVID-19.
"I hope that EnAct continues to be a beacon of education and leadership in the school community," Holly said. "Every member of EnAct is passionate, smart and an exemplary person, and we are committed to leaving the club in good hands when we graduate. I am so impressed with the legacy Ms. Cutler has already created, and I know EnAct members in the future will continue to add greatly to the School," she concluded.
Stay tuned for more information as EnAct has a number of planned events for this year, including monthly documentary movie nights, a beach cleanup, cyclical current events discussions, a Spring Speaker Series (in collaboration with Lawrenceville Environmental Club) and a canoe cleanup event.