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Just before Earth Day, USC hosts Speaker Day

Community digs into environment

Jasper Green, The Rubicon Editor

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Speaker Day Keynote Eric Olson (‘82) founded the nonprofit Business and Social Responsibility (BSR) which works with successful companies to reduce their pollution and make them more environmentally friendly.

We decided on the theme of environment because it is such a prevalent issue in our community,”

— USC member Emilia Topp Johnson

Sessions on environmental preservation and sustainability filled most of the agenda for the bi-annual Speaker Day on Apr. 21. Every other year, students spend the school day listening to speakers at this Upper School Council hosted event.

“As with each class that you attend at school, the hope of Speaker Day is that you will come away having learned something and having gained some perspective. And, this year, the hope is that students will become more aware of the environment,” McVeety said.

USC members determined the focus and schedule of the day.

“We tried to be as responsible as possible to student interests. We sent out a poll on the specific subjects relating to the environment, and made sure to cater to the diversity of subjects that people wanted. Learning how to plan events like Speaker Day was tedious yet educational, and while it was difficult to track down all of the speakers, I felt it was a valuable experience,”  USC member Emilia Topp-Johnson said.

As with each class that you attend at school, the hope of Speaker Day is that you will come away having learned something and having gained some perspective. And, this year, the hope is that students will become more aware of the environment”

— USC Advisor Jim McVeety

This year’s keynote speaker is alumni Eric Olson (‘82). His nonprofit, Business and Social Responsibility (BSR) works with Fortune 500 companies in order to help them reduce pollution and preserve the environment.  During his presentation, Olson talked a little about how his SPA education prepared him for what he is doing now, then talked about how opportunities and world events changed his path, then delved into what his company does.

“I think it is really important to help out the environment because without it, we will not be able to sustain ourselves and when we run out of our natural resources,” sophomore Lucie Hoeschen said.

From there, students and faculty attended 45-minute breakout sessions with two of the 28 speakers present for the day.

Each session covered a different aspect of environmentalism. For instance, Donna Goodlaxson spoke about agriculture, while Sarah Hobbie explained ecosystem ecology and the effects of nutrient pollution in the Mississippi River.

“At one of my speakers, I learned about fracking and how there are benefits but how mostly there are drawbacks to it, because people can get sick from the chemicals and even develop cancer,” Hoeschen said.

One hope of Speaker Day is that it provides connections to people and opportunities to take what they learn beyond the day.

“If students are interested in something a speaker covers, they could reach out to them and help by volunteering, or they could use the relationship as an option for a senior project later on,” McVeety said.

Part of the schedule also included watching Before the Flood, a National Geographic documentary starring Leonardo DiCaprio that focuses on the global effects of climate change.

Then, the typical Friday lunch menu o

f burgers and fries was replaced with a meal of dominantly vegetarian, locally sourced foods.

The last two hours of the day were set for volunteering, a new aspect to the day.  Students’ volunteering consisted environmental cleanup at parks, whether it be cleaning up invasive species like buckthorn or garlic mustard plant, or picking up trash.

“It felt good to get outside today and help out the environment by pulling out the invasive species and picking up  trash,” sophomore Riley Teitel said.

One community service group stayed on campus and wrote letters with Betsy Daub, after a presentation on mining near the Boundary Waters.

Speaker Day has focused on a number of topics over the years, including Immigration and Cultural Diversity (2015) and Bridging Barriers and Overcoming Obstacles (2013).

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About the Contributors
Jasper Green, The Rubicon Sci-Tech Editor
Jasper Green is the Sci-Tech Editor for the 2017-2018 session of The Rubicon. Green also publishes a blog, Periodical Science. Last year as a sophomore, Green was an Opinions Editor along with Krista Schlinger, where he honed his editing and page designing skills. Apart from The Rubicon, Green enjoys playing soccer, cross country skiing, and running track for St....
Marlee Baron, Managing Editor
Senior Marlee Baron is looking forward to her fourth year on staff and her first year as the managing editor for The Rubicon. She has previously worked as a staff writer, an A&E editor and the Around Town editor on The Rubicon print staff. Outside of journalism at school she is a captain of the...
Javier Whitaker-Castañeda, The Rubicon, Editor-in-Chief
Javier Whitaker-Castañeda is the Editor-in-Chief of The Rubicon and a senior at St. Paul Academy and Summit School. Outside of The Rubicon, he is very active, playing on the Boys Varsity Soccer team and acting as co-president of the student group PLAY. Comparing PLAY, a student group that promotes lasting activeness through gym games, to The Rubicon,...
Kathryn Campbell, Director of Publications
Kathryn Campbell is the Director of Publications at St. Paul Academy and Summit School.  She advises The Rubicon newspaper, RubicOnline website, Ibid yearbook, Aureus feature magazine, and Iris art and literature magazine. Deadline is truly her happy place. Campbell considers herself a news junkie who loves discussing current events.  At the state level, she teaches journalism workshop sessions for the Minnesota High...
Diane Huang, Director of RubicOnline
As Diane Huang enters her senior year at St. Paul Academy and Summit School she also settles into a familiar, yet newly titled role as Director of RubicOnline. Diane has worked to improve The Rubicon’s online counterpart since her sophomore year and hopes to see a more dynamic and interactive website in the future. As...
Andrew Johnson, The Rubicon Sports Editor
Andrew Johnson is The Rubicon‘s Sports Editor for the 2017-18 school year. Andrew is a junior and has been a hardworking member of The Rubicon staff since his freshman year of high school. Apart from his work on staff, he can be found playing basketball and baseball at the varsity level. While he spends most of his free...
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