SARASOTA — Two student-run clubs at Booker High School in Sarasota are focused on activism and inclusion.
Sarasota Students 4 Climate began in 2019, inspired in part by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and her weekly School Strike for Climate, a weekly protest, where she hoped to get Parliament to pay attention to the climate crisis the country was facing.
Alma Dasberg, a sophomore, joined because she was looking to get involved in an organization focused on addressing the climate crisis.
Several members of Sarasota Students 4 Climate spoke to the school board last school year, asking the board to consider excusing absences for students to participate in a nationwide climate strike in April.
Ultimately, the strike never happened, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though the club has organized several strikes in Sarasota in 2019.
A lot of the organization’s plans have had to be put on hold as a result of the pandemic.
The club has shifted their focus to email and social media campaigns.
On their Instagram page, they share messages like “Stand up for what we stand on,” “The climate is changing, why aren’t we?” and “Planet over profit.”
Their ultimate goal would be to get the school district to transition to electric-run buses in order to cut down their environmental impact.
Despite the pandemic, the members are still working behind the scenes to speak in front of local government agencies, including the Sarasota County School Board, and partnering with other organizations to speak in front of state government representatives about the importance of conserving energy.
“This is an issue that we very much care about, because we know we’re going to see a lot of effects of it in our lifetime,” Dasberg said.
“It is the responsibility of larger governments to put things in place to make it easier for individuals [to do their part],” she continued.
After high school, Dasberg is interested in continuing her studies in politics, international affairs, or cultural studies.
Students 4 Justice
Dasberg is also a member of the student-led group Sarasota Students 4 Justice, started by sophomore Nora Mitchell.
Mitchell started the group in response to an incident at school, where staff members were asked to remove posters in their classrooms about the Black Lives Matter movement.
The creation of Sarasota Students 4 Justice was also inspired by a September school board meeting, where Superintendent Dr. Brennan Asplen said the district had no intention of Black Lives Matter being integrated into district curriculum, Dasberg said.
Mitchell started a petition titled, “Convince the Sarasota School Board to Allow Black Lives Matter to Be Taught in Schools,” which has gathered more than 850 signatures since its inception.
“We want to put it in the curriculum in a way that will be impactful and create positive change,” Mitchell said.
Both Mitchell and Dasberg have spoken before the school board on behalf of Sarasota Students 4 Justice.
“Education is a great place to examine all ideas,” Dasberg told The Sun, adding that introducing it to the curriculum isn’t saying it’s what everyone believes.
Mitchell hopes to create a student board with students from different schools within the district, who can assist the school board in brainstorming ideas to introduce Black Lives Matter to relevant courses in an unbiased manner, in the most effective way possible.
“The worst fear for us is to have that material be presented in a way that isn’t right or is totally excluded from the curriculum,” Mitchell said.
School board members asked Sarasota Students 4 Justice to come up with a proposal for ways to bring the issue into relevant courses in an unbiased way, Dasberg said.
“It was sad to see that parents didn’t want their kids to learn how to be a better person for others,” Dasberg said, noting the number of parents who spoke out against having Black Lives Matter in the curriculum.
“Including BLM in the curriculum, I think it’s a step forward in the right direction, that hopefully we’ll see more of in this country,” Dasberg added.