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Guzman Trades Tan Lines for Environmental Responsibility

For most, spring break brings to mind images of friends, sun and surf. For University of St. Thomas’ Brenda Guzman, a junior biology major and pre-med student, spring break looks like Washington D.C.

Guzman was accepted into Greenpeace’s Semester Spring Break program, a competitive program that teaches students environmental advocacy, strategic campaigning, communication, and grassroots organizing for the betterment of the planet.

Greenpeace is the largest independent direct-action environmental organization in the world. Their mission is to defend the natural world and promote peace by investigating, exposing and confronting environmental abuse, and championing environmentally responsible solutions.

The five-day program provides a series of workshops where students receive first hand experience in recruiting, non-violent activism and congressional visits.

“I am hoping to improve my leadership skills,” Guzman said. “I want the confidence to be able to inspire others to act.”

Guzman’s interest in environmental advocacy stemmed from her background in yoga. Traditionally, the yoga community has played an active role in environmental advocacy. Through practicing yoga, Guzman developed a strong feeling that she should act to protect the earth, animal and human rights.

As an aspiring surgical oncologist, Guzman realizes how interconnected our environment and health are.

“I think it is all related,” Guzman said. “There are so many environmental issues that are affecting us. Genetically engineered food and water pollution are just a few issues. With no clean water, everyone will get sick. By protecting the environment you are protecting your health.”

Greenpeace expects students to continue the trend of community development and environmental advocacy even after they return. For Guzman, that means reviving UST’s on campus recycling program.  Currently the recycling initiative is supported by clubs who receive grant money if they recycle. However, Guzman doesn’t think there should be a need to incentivize.

“I hope that people want to protect the environment as a good citizen, Guzman said. “It should be because we care about our school, we care about Houston, we care about our community and because we care about our future generations.

It is not all work and no play though. Guzman plans on arriving three days early to see the sights.

“This is my spring break,” Guzman said. “This is exactly what I want to do. I’m sure the beach would be fun, but this is going to be a learning experience. It is something that will help the future.”