Faiza Azam is a senior at John Dewey High School and found her passion for climate change activism while working with Resilient Schools Consortium (RiSC). Her work to make JDHS more resilient against future natural disasters led Faiza to realize she wants to pursue a career in environmental policy. Additionally, Faiza has worked with the New York Aquarium's Wildlife Conservation Society where she focused on protecting endangered marine wildlife by working to raise awareness about the harms of single use plastic pollution. Faiza convinced businesses near Coney Island to ban plastic utensils by marching for the ocean in a seastar costume on World’s Ocean Day, as well as organized and educated other youth about protecting marine animals at a Youth Summit. Her hobbies include listening to music, studying music and dance, gaming, learning new languages, and Broadway musicals.
I grew up in Bangladesh, a country that is underdeveloped and that suffers from pollution problems. Growing up and living in the capital city of Dahka, where there were no roads and poor infrastructure, and natural disasters such as flooding, erosion, and cyclones (which are increasing due to climate change and have destroyed many people’s homes), I witnessed people of all ages suffering from homelessness and lack of resources.
At a young age, I was most troubled by the polluted water and food; even locally grown food was contaminated with pollutants. The tap water in my home was undrinkable; my mother spent at least an hour a day filtering our water. Sadly, people living on the streets didn’t have access to clean water. Even though we had to filter our water, unlike most people who’s only access was the polluted water, I never fully realized the privileged I was given because my family was financially middle class. My dad, who was living in America at the time, sent me nutritious food. I would wonder about these things and cry to myself about these injustices; I wanted to do something to change that.
As a six year old in a really poor country, I felt like I had no voice and couldn’t make an impact on my own. I felt like I was the only one who noticed and cared. After coming to America in May 2009, I began to look for my purpose in life; I didn’t know where I’d fit in, yet began searching for the thing I was looking for. But I could never find anything I liked or had a clear vision of who I wanted to be and how I'd fit into society.
It wasn't until I started high school at John Dewey High School that the idea of law and justice intrigued me. As part of the law academy, I learned more about law enforcement, but the program mostly focused on criminal law and not on human rights and advocacy, which is what I’m most passionate about. In my sophomore year, I joined the Resilient Schools Consortium (RiSC) program. RiSC is a program started by Brooklyn College for seven high schools impacted by Hurricane Sandy; each school received a $2500 grant to implement resiliency programs and ensure that our schools aren’t destroyed from another natural disaster. I felt fulfilled creating bonds while working with others to achieve this goal.
Last year I joined the Wildlife Conservation Society, a program within the New York Aquarium, where I learned how oceans are impacted by pollution and rapidly rising temperatures. As a student leader I had the opportunity to participate in the annual Protest for Ocean Conservation dressed as a sea star. I hosted a summit for more youth to learn about the importance of protecting our ocean wildlife. Finally, later this year in 2019, I joined Our Climate as a Field Representative; the organization supports young leaders to advocate for science based and equitable environmental policies. This elevated my career as an advocate to a different level. I have experienced the amazing feeling of being part of the September Climate Strike of 2019, connecting with my local politicians and encouraging my peers to participate, because that what makes me feel like a true leader. This experience has reaffirmed my desire to change my community for the better to protect our shared future as individuals apart and united around the world.