Laura Comer of Strongsville, Ohio is an Honors College junior who has been very active in the student environmental movement at Hofstra. She is a co-founder of Students for a Greener Hofstra and ran the Power Vote campaign last year to increase the youth vote for environmental issues. She has worked for Greenpeace and Energy Action in Washington while at Hofstra and this summer will study sustainability in Iceland through a University of Alabama program.
You just finished a semester in Washington working for Energy Action. What was that experience like?
Energy action is a coalition of 50 organizational partners that come together. It’s the youth arm of the environmental movement. They work with the Sierra Club, Greenpeace and indigenous populations. They’re the biggest group as far as the youth movement goes so I knew I wanted to be there for this semester.
We had a 12,000 youth at the Power Shift conference at the end of February bringing youth from all over country to D.C. to push for climate legislation. I organized the 378 meetings (with representatives), the largest lobby day ever. I organized the volunteers who set up the rally and I was a media spokesperson for it. The highlight for me was (being interviewed by) NPR.
Following Power Shift there was a campaign to continue the pressure. I was a field organizer, working directly with nine campuses across the country, helping them or their movements and continuing the pressure by having in-district meetings with representatives during April.
Did your efforts produce results?
(U.S. Rep. Henry A.) Waxman and (Sen. John J.) Marchi introduced a bill last month called the American Clean Energy and Security Act. I coordinated a D.C. task force to attend all of the hearings on it, and we organized phone banks from outside the room. I did a lot of Web 2.0, blogging and Twittering from inside the room. The Huffington Post and Newsweek picked it up.
What are your plans for the summer?
I’m joining with the University of Alabama to go to Iceland and learn about environmental sustainability. It’s always been a passion of mine.
We’ll be learning about other forms of energy, hydro and geothermal. I’m going on a four-day hike to one of the glaciers. Iceland also suffered fro deforestation from the Vikings so we’re going to do a reforestation project.
What have you done to help make Hofstra greener?
I co-founded Students for a Greener Hofstra with Michael LaFemina. I’m excited about coming back in the fall and taking classes on sustainability. We also got about 50 students from Hofstra who went to Power Shift in D.C.
How has Hofstra and Hofstra Honors College allowed you to grow and follow your passion for environmental activism?
I have that small school, small college experience living in the Honors College dorms. I know everybody in Republic and Liberty (residence halls). But then I also have the resources of a large college and the resources of the city (New York). And we use it. They definitely make attempts to keep students involved and active in the city and using the resources there.
As much as I wanted to go to really green school I liked the fact that Hofstra had room to grow because I felt that it made me more productive, to be active and get other students involved. It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship.
Have your teachers encouraged you?
I think I have been really blessed with (Professors) (Carolyn) Dudek, (Stephanie) Nanes and Dean (Neil) Donahue. Working with Honors College you can develop closer relationships s with those teachers than you would otherwise. We have really small class sizes, too, and I was impressed with that.
I’ve never had a class larger than 30. That allows you to focus in class.