Sustainability In Our Schools

by Alina Zaidi, Luminari Contributor


My name is Alina Zaidi and I am an alumnus of Luminari’s 2019 I Want To Be An Ambassador! camp. I was a rising sophomore at the North Allegheny School District when I started the camp last year and completely uncertain what I was truly passionate about. I liked a little bit of science, some math, and reading books in English class. My interests were all over the place and I had no idea how to choose one area as a career focus. I happened to learn about the Ambassador camp and decided to do it just for the fun of it. 

But, wow. To say that ​the camp was one of the most meaningful activities I have participated in would be an understatement. It was ​instrumental​ in helping me discover my passion for world affairs, a field I had never even considered studying and had never been exposed to at school. If you’re a student reading this, I strongly recommend you apply because I think it’s a valuable experience that you won’t get anywhere else. I got to interact with ambassadors in Washington D.C., while also making friends. Most importantly, the camp helped me to improve my ​public speaking, collaboration and leadership skills.

Equipped with each of these 3 skills, I was able to start my own nonprofit organization, Sustainability In Our Schools (SIOS) earlier this year. During Ambassador camp, we analyzed several international issues such as the refugee crisis, poverty, and we took a deep look into the Cold War. We learned how collaboration with others while acting as a leader can help solve even the world’s biggest problems. That is how I decided to put these skills to the test by starting SIOS. 

SIOS aims to promote more sustainable school systems through educating elementary and middle school students with presentations and hands-on activities. A big role that Luminari has played in shaping SIOS is that we’re trying to combine world affairs with sustainability! We’re in the process of starting our own pen pal programs with students from across the country in which they will write about environmental conditions affecting the areas where they live and what they think the future looks like. 

The story of SIOS began when I started a club at my high school with my friend Jackie DiGiacomo called SustainNA, aimed to promote sustainable practices at North Allegheny. We weren’t exactly successful because the only people we convinced to come to our club meetings were our friends. We realized that many high schoolers haven’t been taught the importance of sustainability. High school is such a busy time and I feel like everyone is so involved with activities that they don’t have time to try a new club about something they’ve never been involved with in the past. 

This experience has helped Jackie and me realize that the best way to promote sustainable practices in schools is by working with the youngest generation (elementary and middle schoolers) and helping to bring them up with the right mindset and belief in sustainability, starting from this young age. 

Please check out for more information about what we do and email ​​ to get involved. Start a garden in your backyard with your family. Work with us, whether you’re a student, an adult, or a company. Together, we can go one step further to create a sustainable planet.

I am so grateful to Luminari for helping me discover my passion and giving me the necessary skills to do my part in solving international problems like climate change.


About the author: Alina Zaidi is a rising junior at the North Allegheny School District. She is an alumnus of Luminari’s 2019 I Want To Be An Ambassador Camp, and is interested in studying foreign policy and government in the future. Alina believes that by working together, we can combat the effects of climate change and build sustainable communities. When she isn’t advocating for climate change action, Alina loves eating at Chipotle and going hiking with her family.