December 10, 2018

ENVS Blog: Engaging Across Boundaries

Gabriella Francolla ’18 majored in ENVS. She describes her path after graduating from Lewis & Clark, where she has had the opportunity to engage with diverse populations while working as an educator.  Next year she will begin working as an Environmental Educator Volunteer with the Peace Corps in Mexico.

As a first-year at Lewis & Clark, unlike many of my peers who were sampling different classes and majors, I already knew my path. Hands down, no question, I would be an Environmental Studies major. I continued through the major happily–learning how to ask strong questions, use spatial graphing tools, and I even visited the world’s tallest Doug Fir! Though it was not until my senior year when I seriously began to consider post-grad life. I didn’t know what I was going to do, or even what I wanted to do, but I ignored thinking about those stressful questions too often! Instead I focused on my thesis, maybe a little too much, but now I am incredibly proud of my final product. However, I somehow still managed to find work that I am passionate about and that brings me joy.

Directly after graduation, I had my dream summer as a Bike Camp instructor, riding around NE Portland with elementary age kids, teaching road skills, mechanics, and spreading a love of biking! The summer was blissful—when I wasn’t worried about kids getting hit by cars under my supervision—and now I am in the midst of my first “adult job.”

I said goodbye to Portland and moved farther north to Seattle, where I work in a middle school, through an Americorps program. This school is a Title 1 school—meaning it has a high poverty rate—as well as an endless diversity of students. I spend my days in 6th grade English Language Arts (ELA) and English Language Learning (ELL) classrooms supporting students in a larger effort to close the opportunity gap and push students towards graduation.

As a senior at Lewis & Clark, while the country was experiencing a rude awakening thanks to the beginning of our current president’s term, the theme of engaging with people across boundaries arose time and again within the Environmental Studies Program. Building connections with people who are different than us is an essential way to move forward and make meaningful progress in this era where animosity can be the default. I think about this frequently when I am working with students from Honduras, Mexico, Iraq, Vietnam, Somalia—the list goes on and on. Never in my life have I had the opportunity to learn from such a spectrum of people, or better yet, middle schoolers. I can thank my Environmental Studies education for helping me see the importance of seeking the perspective of every and all communities, especially the ones who are historically marginalized.

Due to this intensive experience in the education system combined with my Environmental Studies background, I feel prepared for my next adventure: the Peace Corps. I will be moving to Mexico in June to serve as an Environmental Education Volunteer. To be completely honest, I still have a lot of uncertainty, as well as curiosity, about what the next two years will look like. What exactly will it mean to be doing environmental education in central Mexico? I don’t have all the answers; what I do know is that I feel both qualified and excited about what my future holds, and what more can I ask for?

I look forward to applying the lessons I have learned in college to my work in Mexico. Throughout my core classes, and especially my thesis, Jim Proctor always pushed me to take a new, more interesting perspective—to change up the traditional rhetoric around environmentalism and stand apart as a true critical thinker. I cannot thank the professors at Lewis & Clark enough for preparing me to embark on an adventure of a lifetime.