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Green Teens: Students Find Passion And Purpose In Learning About The Environment

"We like to talk about conservation and sustainability," Desmarais said. "A lot of the students don't even know what's in their own backyard. So we're trying to get them to appreciate what's around them as well as to appreciate the value of the environment to not only know about it but we can't protect it if we don't know how important it is.

"You'd think with them living in South Florida that they'd know this stuff but I've had kids in the past who have lived their entire life in Florida yet they've never seen a real alligator. This encourages them to see how cool it is to be outside in nature."

TOMORROW'S VOTERS Lena Santiago, a park aide at the Anne Kolb Nature Center, said she feels exposing students to these issues at a young age is key.

"It's so important for students," she said, adding they need to understand the human impact on nature.

"The environment is getting polluted, more every day. Plastic is killing a lot of animals. Many baby birds can't tell the difference between plastic and food. Even baby fish eat plastic _ and some die from it," she said. "So there won't be any fish if that continues. Also, when people eat these fish after they grow up, they get poisoned because the plastic stays in their system, which is toxic for humans."

Santiago said she also feels young people have a need to know as much as possible before they start electing lawmakers.

"When they're ready to vote, they can influence governors and presidents to care more about the environment. That's why they have to start now," she said.

EARLY EXPOSURE Hoss agrees that early exposure to these critical issues will make a difference in the long run.

"The sooner they get involved, the better," she said. "Children are our future and we, as adults, seem to be caught in old paradigms, so kids need to lead into a new, sustainable future."

"Everyone can play a part in making a difference. Every little thing counts. One person's actions matter. Start small and dream big. Start with one change that helps the environment," she said.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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