Let me share with you the exciting adventure I embarked on during the 2024 Sustainathon, a transformative event that touched my heart and ignited my passion for Environmental Sustainability. My name is Charles Walker-Hoover, and I am a business transfer student at Springfield Technical Community College (STCC). My involvement in this cause may seem serendipitous, but I feel like it was a convergence of fate and determination. It all began when I enrolled in a biology class taught by Dr. Randhir, the visionary behind Sustainathon. Throughout the semester, she instilled in us the importance of Sustainability and the transformative power of science in shaping a better world.

As the semester unfolded, I delved deep into the capstone project I chose: “Harnessing Microbes for Sustainable Plastic Production and Degradation.” Through immersive class experiments and project work, I became intimately involved in the scientific process. It helped me to connect with my classmates and seek the mentorship of my professor. I loved coming to class. It was a privilege I cherished, a journey of discovery that reshaped my perspective on learning and innovation. I realized that it will be Science that will help clean up our environment just as how it saved humanity by creating vaccines during the pandemic.

On the eve of Sustainathon, I set up posters and little did I anticipate the magnitude of what awaited us. The atmosphere crackled with anticipation as the gym filled to capacity on April 10th, 2024, during this Sustainathon Earth Day event, pulsating with the collective energy of passionate individuals dedicated to sustainability. The opening remark was by our President John Cook who set the stage for the celebration of this Earth Day event. He welcomed the high schools and local colleges who were in attendance and then announced the winners of the research poster competition. The winner of the high school competition was the Renaissance team for their research on composting. Then the winner from STCC was announced: when my name was called, time stood still and felt like a slow motion moment! It was a moment of profound honor, a validation of the countless hours invested in my project. But more than accolades, it was an opportunity to amplify the message of sustainability, to share ideas that could shape our collective future. Did you know that microbes can be used for synthesizing biodegradable polymers as well as for breaking down plastics as well?

Sustainathon was more than just an event; it was a nexus of minds, a convergence of young and old united by a common purpose. As I navigated through the exhibits and presentations, I felt a sense of belonging, an affirmation of my journey as a lifelong learner. Then lunch was served accompanied by a lively Mariachi band. A string of Latino dancers came bouncing in, the crowd cheered and joined the fun. It was a fantastic experience and yet another privilege to join them as Rowdy the Ram, our college Mascot. Hence, in sharing my project, I discovered a new dimension of learning, one that transcends the confines of a classroom. Sustainathon was a testament to the boundless possibilities of collaborative learning, an incubator of ideas poised to redefine our relationship with the planet. As I reflect on the experience, I understand the imperative to nurture a sustainable future. It is a journey we must undertake together, fueled by knowledge, innovation, and unwavering resolve. Sustainathon has instilled in me a renewed sense of purpose, a commitment to sustain not just the environment, but also the spirit of inquiry and exploration that defines us as a species. Let us heed its call, let us sustain the momentum of change, for it is in our hands to build the world we envision, one that thrives in harmony with nature, one that sustains for generations to come. Thank you.