Student focuses on climate change

Being invited to the White House is not something many people can claim; however, sophomore environmental studies student  Gina Fiorile already had it checked off her bucket list when she went back to the White House Aug. 20.

This summer, the White House hosted a Back-to-School Climate Education Event, inviting members of academic and government organizations to debate and share their knowledge and ideas on climate change, according to a White House blog post.

Fiorile said she began her career in environmental advocacy as a sophomore in high school, joining her school’s environmental club and being involved in the planning of the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit in upstate New York.

Climate activist Gina
Sophomore environmental studies student Gina Fiorile stands in the Aiken Center Sept. 4. Fiorile returned to the White House Aug. 20 for a climate education event

“It was there that I learned about how the impacts of climate change would be felt around the world and in the area where I call home,” Fiorile said.

“After my first experience at the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit, I have been dedicated to reducing my personal carbon footprint and encouraging others to do the same,” she said.

After beginning her college career, she started working with UVM ecological economics professor Jon Erickson on a PBS documentary about the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit called “The Resilient Ones.”

“Gina’s work on the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit was the inspiration for the Vermont Youth Climate Summit that my ecological economics class organized last summer,” Erickson said.

Vermont senator and U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders partnered with the students and attended the summit.

President Tom Sullivan commented on Fiorile’s efforts and accomplishments, saying “It’s people like Gina that give me hope we will find ways to improve our communities, deal with the climate challenge and move forward.”

Fiorile’s first invitation to the White House came this February. Along with seven other students nationwide, Fiorile was honored for her work on climate change education in response to her involvement with the Adirondack Youth Climate Summit.

This summer, she received her second invitation to the White House.

A group of 200 high school students, educators and key leaders in the education community were invited to the event, according to

Fiorile said she participated in interactive discussions and presentations with many senior officials involved in governmental climate action.

“I engaged in a fireside chat on stage with Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, the head of NOAA and first woman [to walk] in space to share more about students’ role in fighting climate change,” Fiorile said.