Belmont’s Eco Club recently won Turning Green’s Project Green Challenge (PGC) competition. The 12th annual PGC global initiative features thousands of high school, undergraduate and graduate participants from more than 700 schools in 48 states and 68 countries.
The competition is anchored in a month-long period of environmentally themed challenges designed to equip students with knowledge and resources needed to enact change for a more just world. Fourteen finalists from six nations were announced at the November 2022 eco summit in San Francisco, bringing together climate activists, leaders, speakers, mentors and ambassadors from around the world.
Belmont’s Eco Club was among the finalists and included students Elma Jashim, Linnea Lyons, Abigail Marianetti and Lauren Merrill. The team went on to present their work at a virtual conference in April. As the competition winners, the team received a $5,000 Acure Green Award and the grand prize package.
As part of their submission to the competition, the Eco Club developed its climate action project, creating environmental justice curriculum which the team hopes will be implemented into Belmont’s new Thomas F. Frist, Jr. College of Medicine.
The team’s project looked at the correlation of environmental justice with medical disparities within communities and sought to integrate their findings into medical education.
“This is something that I’m personally really passionate about,” said senior biology student Jashim. “Our climate action project is to try and incorporate environmental justice into medical education.”
Environmental justice, Jashim explained, is the idea that environmental injustices or environmental issues have a disproportionate impact on marginalized groups. She described areas such as Flint, Michigan, Cancer Alley in Louisiana, and other communities that have experienced adverse health effects due to their proximity to environmental injustices.
“This is unfortunately a topic that I don’t think is addressed enough in medical education. Very few medical schools have lectures or classes dedicated to the intersection between environmental justice and health, and so we wanted to address this deficit.”
Missy Martin, former Belmont student and 2015 winner of the PGC competition, mentored this year’s team. Reflecting on her experiences in winning the competition and being involved since then through the mentorship program, Martin said, “It’s very cool how everything came full circle!”
As fourth-year students, Jashim spoke of her team’s desire to be involved in a way that could make a real difference on campus and in the world before graduation. By exploring their passions and working to enact positive change in the community, these students have left their marks on Belmont’s campus.