Passage to India
Meet Sheila Ostroff.
She's got a name you're going to want to remember.
She's been working with Boone environmental advocacy group Appalachian Voices almost a year and, thanks to community networking, the Caldwell Community College student has just landed the opportunity of a lifetime.
It's the Oxfam International Youth Project, a fellowship that makes Ostroff among the 300 selected from 127 different countries to take part in the Kaleidoscope Program in New Delhi, India.
The program, which starts Nov. 21, isn't a grant or a job opportunity. The eight-day program is a training ground for ideas, and it's going to help Ostroff kick off a program she's passionate about developing here in the High Country.
"I want to work with youth, kindergarten through eighth grade on educating them as to where their food, water and energy sources come from," she said. "Then, once I kind of teach them about that, then I can get them involved in hands-on work exchange programs throughout the community, and they will be able to engage and incorporate it into their lives.
"I want to facilitate campaigns that they can build themselves, to teach the community what they've learned about these essential issues and topics."
Ostroff, who gets a jump start this fall working with Watauga High School students involved in the WHS Environmental Club, was astounded to learn how little kids know about their resources.
"You ask a kid where their water comes from, they say a bottle or a faucet," she said.
These same kids think electricity comes from a light switch or a power plant and have no idea what resources create that energy.
"A kid says their food comes from a grocery store," she said. "That's a little bit sad. I feel like getting kids involved with local farming around the area ... will give them a better idea."
And it's a trickle-down effect. Once kids see where their energy comes from, they may be encouraged to act more responsibly where their resources are concerned, and that gets absorbed through their parents.
"Kids are going to put their own creative spin on this and get the community involved in different ways and therefore educating adults," she said. "We have to do this now. I just feel like once people have an understanding, especially kids, where their food and water comes from, it's going to allow them to be more well-rounded as individuals, and that's what the school system is trying to do."
She is already working with groups like the Elkland Arts Center and Footsloggers to create workshop ideas and, after her trip in November, hopes to come up with even more concrete ways to develop her program.
Ostroff is no stranger to international travel, having explored Asia, and looks forward to bringing her experiences back to local kids. The Davis, Calif., native moved to Boone for its environment and is staying for its community. Look for her at a fundraiser raffle (part of Downtown Boone Art Crawl) Oct. 1 in the Footsloggers courtyard.
Once the program's under way? She's looking forward to transferring to Appalachian State University to study appropriate technology and sustainable development.
Keep up with her efforts on her blog: life-is-an-adventure.tumblr.com/.