Hello, my name is Kemi Anoje, and I am a student at Springfield Technical Community College currently taking my prerequisite for nursing. I came to the United State from my home of Lagos, Nigeria about 5 years ago and I am privileged to be attending the best community college, STCC. Even though I earned a LLB degree, I realized that my true passion was to become a nurse to serve the sick. I was impressed with the diverse STEM majors and student resources offered at STCC. I participated in STCC Sustainathon event and I was encouraged to know that the event was widely attended by students from other countries also and felt united with them for this universal celebration.

Kemi Anoje, STCC student
Kemi Anoje

The Sustainathon was educative and inspiring. Our STEM assistant dean, Patrick Dawes presented the welcome address and thanked students, speakers, and participants. The keynote was offered by our senator Edward Markey who explained the current climate crisis and the need for innovative action to mitigate it. He stressed that clean energy is the blueprint for recovery and to transform our climate, our economy and democracy. His powerful words saying that we are the ‘Green Generation’ motivated me to be part of the solution to address climate change in any way I can. This speech was followed another keynote by our Springfield mayor Domenic Sarno who further emphasized the need going green and urban environmental protection since public health and our economy depends on it.

All our speakers were interesting and passionate to share to their knowledge with a call for action. The first speaker was Dr. Michael Rawlins who presented the factors that accelerate climate change. I was intrigued to learn that climate change was more severe in the New England due to reduced snowfall and reflection of light. Dr. Susannah Lerman then presented her research about Biodiversity, specifically backyard habitat for bees. She explained the importance of bees to sustain our food supply. It was fascinating to learn that pollinator gardens and that mowing our lawns less frequently can help tremendously. Dr. Jun Yao talk on Electricity from Air was mind blowing. I have never heard of such innovation before. He explained that this new type of energy-harvesting device, based on protein nanowires from the microbe Geobacter, can generate a sustained power output by producing a moisture gradient across the nanowire film using natural humidity. The sky is the limit indeed.

Our last speaker was Elin Kelsey who is the author of the book named Hope Matters was fantastic. She explained why the way we think is critical to solving the environmental crisis. In my heart I immediately felt that this universal message was wisely conveyed. Media is constantly reporting crisis and feeding us the doom and gloom of what humanity has done to the environment. We rarely hear about solutions and success stories to our current problems. ‘Assuming a fatalistic perspective and positioning hopelessness as a forgone conclusion is not reality but a mindset which we need to address’ she quoted. She further explained a new term called ‘Hope Gap’- between people’s fear about climate change and their feeling of powerlessness to do anything about it. It was more fascinating to note that her poll showed that 87 % of the audience felt this way!

Evidence based hope and collective hope towards environmental action are powerful drivers of change which we currently need. The event opened my eyes to the consequences of climate change on our environment and this puts a burden on each one of us to be an agent of change in whatever little way we can to help the future of our world. Before this event, I was ignorant of the detrimental effect of climate change, but the information shared today has gingered me to become more aware of my environment and the need to preserve the earth. The engagement in the event was phenomenal, since I saw the chat was flooded with questions and comments.

In the weeks preceding the STCC Sustainathon event, students were encouraged to take part in the Sustainathon Research Poster Competition. My professor encouraged us to participate and guided us to completion. We decided on the topic ‘Biofuel Energy Sources for Sustainability’. The weeks leading up to the event was full of activities and we had to practice presenting our research and I must say that I was extremely nervous at public speaking but with a lot of encouragement from my professor, I was able to overcome my fear. When it was announced that we won the third prize it was an unbelievable joy.

 My overall experience at the Sustainathon 2021 was amazing and I will participate again. I must say a big thank you for the professional guidance of UMass professor, Dr. Timothy Randhir. My appreciation to STCC STEM Starter Academy for this opportunity because it was a great learning curve for me.