It’s not often that a 16-year-old high school student gets to speak at an environmental conference full of scientists, professors and PhD holders.
Abhayjeet Singh Sachal, a Grade 11 student at North Delta’s Seaquam Secondary, is doing just that.
Sachal was selected to host a presentation at this year’s Southeastern Environmental Education Alliance Conference and Research Symposium in St. Petersburg, Fla., an event which normally sees professors from prestigious American universities and environmentalists who have devoted their lives to climate change. The conference gets underway on Friday, March 16.
“It’s incredible, just being able to go to this conference all the way in Florida, being probably one of the only young people presenting, it’s just amazing,” Sachal said.
Sachal will be talking about his summer 2016 trip to the Arctic, where he saw how climate change is impacting people’s lives, driving increased poverty and suicide rates. He hopes his presentation will add a new viewpoint on climate change.
“It is important for me to go to this event, to get that different perspective out, the idea that climate change is impacting real people today. It’s not just an issue of statistics or animals, it’s affecting real people today and [it’s] going to continue affecting real people,” Sachal said. “We need to be personalized with the issue, we need to change the way we talk about climate change if we really want to make a difference.”
Sachal will also speak about how this trip inspired him to co-founding Break The Divide, an initiative which brings together students from around the world via social media the world to talk about issues in their community, something he hopes will stick with those who attend the event.
“My main goal would be to really connect with educators in a way that we can get them onto our network, so that we can keep talking to them, get schools opening Break The Divide chapters down there and get them doing these amazing initiatives,” Sachal said.
Sachal said he has been environmentally conscious since he was six and has spoken at a dozen environment-related events, including hosting a TEDxKids@BC talk when he was in the seventh grade (see video below) and speaking on the same stage as David Suzuki at the Richmond Earth Day Youth Summit last year.
He’s also used to teaching teachers about climate change, as he often comes in on professional development days to host workshops. In fact, the Delta School District is funding his trip to the conference.
Seaquam science and social studies teacher Michael Iachetta said he knew Sachal was a special student in Grade 8. Iachetta, who is a mentor for Sachal and will join him on his trip to Florida, said his pupil truly deserves this opportunity and is more than just a student; he’s a leader.
“I know he’s more than earned this and, though he’s just a student, the attention of everybody, it’s beyond sort of a respect thing. It’s that he belongs here,” Iachetta said. “It just shows the impact that students can have.”