Bow Seat Alumni Discover New Passion for Environmental Science
July 9, 2018

by Lily Bermel, Future Blue Intern

In the past month, I’ve had the fantastic opportunity to interview many Bow Seat alumni. So far, two alumni have stood out as newly transformed environment and advocacy enthusiasts because of their participation in Bow Seat’s Ocean Awareness Contest: Haley Bayne (Honorable Mention, Essay 2017) and Akhila Bandlora (Gold, Poetry 2017).

Haley Bayne is a rising sophomore at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. She participated in Bow Seat’s contest during her senior year in high school when it was an assignment in her AP Environmental Science (APES) class. Her essay on oil spills (titled “An Oily Situation”) can be read here!

Participating in the contest was most rewarding to Haley because of the in-depth research that was required to produce her essay. Haley said she had to research a variety of topics in order to be able to choose her own, and then it required her to become intimate with her topic to write a polished essay.

“I really cared about my research,” she told me. “After I got to know my topic, I saw how broad and interesting the different sub-portions of the topic were, and it made me want to know more and more and more to see the interconnectedness of it all.”

The biggest takeaways Haley received from her contest participation were the facts she learned. “I have a better education about oil and the ocean. I learned so many cool, specific things about the ocean that are important to know and I’m glad I learned them.”

Haley found the international involvement with Bow Seat to be inspirational. “It gives me hope to see that there are other people that care about the environment and that there is a community that knows about environmental problems,” she stated.

From the other side of the country in Phoenix, Arizona, rising high school sophomore Akhila Bandlora found a similar connection to the environment because of her research. Akhila has never had the opportunity to learn about environmental issues or climate change in school before, so her first exposure to these topics was through Bow Seat, which she discovered when searching the web for writing contests.

Akhila is an avid writer and appreciated the opportunity to use her writing as a form of advocacy, something she had never done before. She chose to write a poem for her submission, and spent a month and a half researching for her piece. Read her gold-winning poem here! Akhila also participated in the 2016 competition, and this poem won an honorable mention award. I have to admit… reading her poems gave me the chills!

Akhila stated, “Art is also a form of advocacy and so many people forget that. Submitting to the contest empowered me and gave me an outlet for my expression. I felt a lot more connected and like I was doing something; even if I wasn’t going out and protesting… I was more informed.”

Both Haley and Akhila discovered an innate interest in studying environmental science that they did not have before. Although Haley’s newfound passion was formed throughout the year in the APES classroom, her engagement with Bow Seat brought a deeper sense of connection to what she was studying.

Despite being originally interested in studying law, Haley is now an environmental science major at Northeastern. This summer, she is working in a lab researching the fungal properties of termite embryos and spending a month in Iceland learning about geological processes.

Akhila is looking forward to taking APES as a junior, the first year her school is offering the class. She is starting a club at her high school that would participate in the national GENIUS Olympiad high school project competition about environmental issues. And, she is making an effort to be more environmentally friendly in her everyday life.

As a Bow Seat alumna myself, I loved seeing how participating in Bow Seat’s contest made a tangible impact on these young women’s lives and helped to steer them on a new path. Cheers to Haley and Akhila in their efforts to be environment advocates, ambassadors, and changemakers!

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Bow Seat Alumni Discover New Passion for Environmental Science

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