Club offers social experience around important issues

Maggie Galloway, Editor

Bribed with free pizza, root beer, and the promise of newfound friendship, students gather to talk about plastic silverware in Sierra Nevada University’s cafeteria, indigenous people, and their passion for the outdoors.
SNU’s Climate Alliance and Social Justice Club is led by Kayla Heidenreich, an outdoor adventure leadership and journalism major with a minor in sustainability.
“Climate alliance is a place for like-minded people who share a similar passion and love for protecting the environment and the people,” Heidenreich said.
Heidenreich became passionate about sustainability and social justice after taking Professor Brennan Lagasse’s Arctic Refuge class, like many other students.
“I knew oil drilling in arctic Alaska would put the land and animals at risk, but I never knew there were indigenous people who lived up there,” Heidenreich said. “Knowing this really connected social justice and sustainability issues in my brain when I never really thought about it that way.”
Brayden Stephenson, a sophomore, also became passionate about the subject after taking some of Lagasse’s classes.
“I appreciate that it’s a safe space to talk about our ideas,” Stephenson said. “It feels really natural. There’s quite a lot of new students in the club, and it’s been nice to connect with them over our passion for saving the planet and its people. We’re able to dive deep into sensitive subject matter very naturally which is cool. I also think it’s cool to be able to voice our opinions and ideas and actually feel like we’re doing something with them.
“Last semester when it was virtual over Zoom, we would talk about things but never really put them into action. This semester it feels like we’re putting a lot more of our ideas into action.”
Club members had the opportunity to share information about the indigenous tribes that once occupied their hometowns. After sharing, they hung up the name of the tribe on a map and completed a formal land acknowledgment.
“Last week was really interesting for me,” Stephenson said. “I was familiar with land acknowledgments, but it was cool to dive deeper and hear about other people’s native lands that they grew up on.”
New student Natalie Bowers has found a comfort in the space as well.
“Joining Climate Alliance as a new student has been so welcoming,” Bowers said. “It has been super nice to have a space to connect with a wonderful group of like-minded homies and engage in conversations you wouldn’t normally have on a regular basis. The energy in the space makes it easy to communicate honestly with one another and form relationships around a common ground.”
Bowers is currently helping another club member, Michelle Williams, renovate the greenhouse in the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences building for her senior project.
“I’m excited to continue exploring ideas and taking action to make feasible change here on campus,” she said.
Students interested in meeting with like-minded individuals outside of class and turning ideas into a reality with a group of friends to support you, are welcome to join Climate Alliance and Social Justice Club meetings. every Wednesday at 5 p.m. in room 207 in Patterson Hall, above the cafeteria.