Six Whitties Who Will Change the World – Camila Thorndike

kristencoverdale

20091005-05-profiles-webA passionate student leader and activist, senior Camila Thorndike recognizes the importance of youth community involvement.

“Life is now. It doesn’t begin after you leave college. The issues we’re facing aren’t going to wait for us to grow up and a get a job. College-aged people are oftentimes on the frontlines and have to inspire society. That’s our call and our responsibility as young people,” said Thorndike. “I am very vehement about defending that idealism . . . We all have a responsibility to do what we can.”

Thorndike feels strongly about instilling in her peers this sense of social responsibility.  As the founder of the Network for Young Walla Walla, she has  worked closely with other student leaders  from Whitman, Walla Walla University and Walla Walla Community College to discuss ways of empowering the youth of  our community. The main  purpose of the network is to  foster dialogue between students about important current issues and ways to tackle those problems.

The motto of the network, “Find a cause. Connect with others. Make plans. Take action,” is a good indicator of advice by which Thorndike certainly lives. She has been involved in Campus Climate Challenge for the past three years and helped start the “Cool the Schools” environmental education program, among other activities. A recipient of the Udall Scholarship, she has gained recognition and support for her efforts in environmental advocacy.

This past summer Thorndike worked with a D.C.-based environmental justice program which  employed about 100 intercity youth, sending them into low income neighborhoods to give families energy saving tips. The experience was life-changing for Thorndike.

“Working in those communities was humbling, empowering and very real,” she said. “Even more than when I studied abroad, that was the only time I really understood what culture shock was.”

In the future Thorndike hopes to work in environmental conflict mediation, a relatively new field that aims to solve problems over natural resources. Specifically, she wants to focus on international disputes over water resources.

“Working with water is a very powerful tool. Water wars aren’t so much a reality as water peacemaking . . . there’s a great potential for solving other problems at the same time,” said Thorndike.

Though her own passion is in environmental activism, Thorndike thinks it’s important for students to get involved in whatever interests them and look for support from other students.

“Each of us as individuals should acknowledge our gifts,” said Thorndike. “Issues won’t be solved by one type of person alone.   It is the bringing together of groups of people and unique skills.”