Club junior co-head Annabella Bernhardt ’24 feels right at home supporting sustainability initiatives at SPS.
BY JACQUELINE PRIMO LEMMON
In the fall of her Third Form year, Annabella Bernhardt ’24 attended Eco-Fest, the annual festival put on by the St. Paul’s School student environmental action club, Eco-Action. Coming to SPS from a tiny North Carolina town near the Appalachian Mountains — think 15-students-per-grade tiny — she had grown up surrounded by bluegrass music. “My grandma always says she danced my dad out at this bluegrass festival called MerleFest,” Bernhardt says of the genre’s roots in her family. So, when she heard Jamie Campbell ’23 and Anna Zoltowski ’23 playing bluegrass banjo music on the Chapel Lawn at Eco-Fest, “I cried, I cried, I cried,” she says wistfully, recalling her brush with homesickness. “That was the moment I wanted to get involved in Eco-Action.”
Bernhardt’s interest grew as she attended meetings and learned more about climate change and the club’s environmental initiatives. Now, as a Fifth Former, Bernhardt is one of two Eco-Action junior heads, along with Lilly Ehlinger ’24. Eco-Action’s four senior heads are Austin Evans ’23, Lucy Mason ’23, Ellie Sung ’23 and Katie Allen ’23, with Science Teacher Nick Babladelis serving as the faculty adviser. “We all really contribute equally and feel very passionately about these issues,” Bernhardt says.
While Eco-Fest’s educational carnival games, farm animals and pumpkin-carving signal the unofficial start of fall at SPS, the club works all year to raise awareness about different environmental and sustainability issues. Eco-Action engages an average of 40 students each week throughout the year, and the club’s heads meet weekly to talk about current events and initiatives. Recent discussions have focused on the Willow Project, an Alaska oil-drilling project that is anticipated to contribute an additional 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution to the atmosphere each year.