This blog is the seventh in a series of profiles written by 350VT intern Julie Elfin. Julie got the chance to speak with Hope Petraro of Montpelier, a high school student with a passion for art and activism. This is Hope’s story.
I believe an activist is always a leader. As a leader, it’s important to strike the right balance of listening and speaking, receiving and provide input. It’s synonymous with being a revolutionary, and revolutionaries go against the flow. Activists inspire others and foster progress towards a common goal and common good.
I’m a freshman at Montpelier High School. I work with the youth activism group in Plainfield. It’s great to connect with people who feel similarly and help people. It’s important work. Being able to have and support a positive community of people who care about the greater good is so rare. That’s a good work right there.
A large part of our work is showing people that the youth have a voice. We aren’t adults, but we shouldn’t be trivialized. We’re not just the future; we’re doing the work right now. I won the Green Up Vermont poster contest this year, so my art is working for a cause that way. The Plainfield youth activism group does a lot of art, like banners for Protect Geprags actions.
I’ve slowly grown into the ‘activist’ label. I became interested in activism and moved to Vermont at around the same time. Since then, I’ve come to care more about the environment than I thought I would, more than a lot of my peers seem to. I’ve learned to love and appreciate nature more than I ever thought I would when I was growing up in New York City. In Vermont, we have solace from industrialization and a lot of environmental harms, but we are very connected to the land. I feel close to nature now. It’s the land I live on, and climate change will affect that land.
I come from a working class family. Corporations don’t care about the working class. The people in power in D.C right now don’t care about those who don’t have power. I don’t want a world where people are in it for the money and forget to care for others. I have to work to create a different world.
This power comes into play around the Vermont Gas pipeline and February’s Public Service Board hearings, too. So many people provided heartfelt speeches on what they cared about, explaining with facts, as well as opinions and personal stories, why the pipeline was so detrimental. But it was like they were speaking to a wall. There was no correspondence, no response from the Board. The whole point of a public forum is to listen to people, but the process has blatantly disregarded people’s opinions. The interests of the majority of people should win out over monetary profit.
Activism is such a part of my life. I wouldn’t be able to escape it even if I wanted to. I couldn’t have a happy, satisfied, fulfilling life without helping other people, and activism is how I do that. Connecting with people keeps me informed about the world. Otherwise, I’d remain ignorant. Ignorance is bliss but not the kind of bliss I’d want.
I’m an open book. It’s a key part of who I am. People know I care. I have a reputation at school, advocating for women’s rights and other issues. I have a relatively sensitive heart. Resisting apathy is key. Being an activist is an uphill battle, but personally I have more to work with. My mom and my friends always support me.
I’d like to make a career in activism. I’m definitely going to choose a career path in which I have a positive impact on the majority of people. I want to have a direct impact on people, whether that means working as a lawyer or an artist. I’m interested in cultural and interpersonal relations, I want to create role models. In summary, I want a life where I can help others, change culture and put more love into modern society.
Julie Elfin is a senior at the University of Vermont studying the environment and communications. This profile series is her culminating project for her Online Organizing internship with 350VT.