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Climate Calling Energy & Environment

A Youth Eco-Activist Charts a Course for the Future in Her Classroom and Community

Poolesville High School Global Ecology student Brianna Akuamoah-Boateng is part of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Summer Expedition for young leaders from across the estuary. Photo courtesy of Ethan Snyder.

Editor’s Note: Taking climate lessons from the classroom to the community, Maryland students are becoming increasingly vocal, marching in protests, organizing rallies and challenging school and government authorities to act on their concerns. 

Many have been inspired by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who, at 15 in 2018, staged daily protests outside the Swedish Parliament with demands that leaders listen to her pleas for the planet.

This month we profile three Maryland teenagers, each a leader among their peers seeking to address solutions to a global crisis. 

They are part of a growing youth movement, impatient and frustrated, yet empowered by the sum of their collective effort to create a more equitable and sustainable future.


Last July, 16-year-old Brianna Akuamoah-Boateng joined two dozen young people in a 5-day Chesapeake Bay Foundation Student Leadership Summer Expedition at the Philip Merrill Environmental Center in Annapolis.

“We camped, paddled and tested water quality,” she said.

One day, just before sunrise she quietly slipped from her tent and dipped her feet in the water.

“It was such a captivating sight, alone with the universe. Nature provides us with wonders even as it cries out for help,” she said.

Click here to read more from our Climate Calling series.

Bri, as her friends call her, has heard those cries all her young life, and sees the urgency of the moment.

“I come from a very long line of fishers,” she said, noting the deep respect she holds for her great grandparents who owned a fleet of boats in Ghana, off the coast of Accra in the south.

While Brianna was born in the United States, she is the daughter of Ghanaian immigrants and has returned with her parents to their homeland several times.

She said the classes she takes as part of the Global Ecology magnet program at Poolesville High School builds on her heritage.

The program is an interdisciplinary science and social studies curriculum with bi-weekly field trips that put into context what she’s learning in the classroom.

As a sophomore, she’s a member of the high school Bay Coalition, an offshoot of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Student Leadership Program.

“In school a lot of my interests are connected. So, a lot of the classes I take, one thing caters to another.” she says.

Brianna has also joined a chapter of the youth-led Sunrise climate and social justice movement which allows her to do research, write papers, and speak out for the health of the watershed at school and in the community.

Last June she wrote an opinion piece in Bethesda Beat calling for water bottle filling stations at every Montgomery County public school. Her argument won favor with the county school board, which voted to pass the measure in time for school in the fall.

In late October after visiting Ten Mile Creek with her Poolesville classmates, Brianna coordinated a lobby effort with six other students asking for judicial review of a Montgomery County Planning Board decision to allow development in sensitive areas tied to the creek.

Her group requested a virtual session before the Planning Board Environmental Committee to voice their concerns about threats to the Creek, considered one of the healthiest waterways in the Chesapeake Bay.

“[We] had the opportunity to speak, to share our opinions and share what the watershed and water conservation means to [us],” she said. “We got to ask our own questions, to see what we can do in the future.”

Right now, Brianna is working to build momentum on that action using voices of young people like hers.

“I think it was a good opportunity not only to empower students, but to [let] the [Planning Board] know that we are here, and we will keep fighting for this place to be protected,” she says.

Brianna also credits Democracy Summer, the youth political training program hosted by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), for helping hone her skills as an organizer and political activist. In 2021, she was among 375 fellows from across the country (125 locally) who, like her, attended online seminars, and joined policy experts and top political and community organizers.

“It really help[ed] me feel more confident in using those skills on [my] own. I think that it’s just a great way to build community, because these are people [who will] continue to support you once you complete the program,” she said.

Raskin remains one of Brianna’s biggest boosters.

“She is a total dynamo. She had taken her [Poolesville High School] studies seriously and came to us as a big-time environmentalist already,” he said in an interview. “I’m thrilled that we really did help equip her with the political skills she needs to advance her environmental values.”

Meghan Fink, Maryland student leader coordinator with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said Brianna and other teens working toward Chesapeake Bay Leadership Certification by their senior years are planning a Bay-wide cleanup in 2023.

“Her work ethic just blows me away. She’s an active listener, critical thinker, quick on her feet and very good at taking charge,” Fink said.

She’s certain the students will pull off the project.

“They are the best investment we can make. They are future senators, leaders of non-profits, activists, and grassroots organizers,” Fink said.

Throughout her activism, Brianna talks with more and more people with diverse opinions.

Her strategy for getting people to listen?

“Directness and kindness I think tend to sway people to your favor. You can never be overzealous with your opinion. And, it’s good to be more passive, but still affirmative in what you are saying, that you are a flexible person, you know what you want, are willing to negotiate, and how to achieve it.”


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A Youth Eco-Activist Charts a Course for the Future in Her Classroom and Community