Student steers youth toward green efforts

Being a full-time student can feel like a full-time job. But for one University student, balancing school and an internship pays off in more ways than one.

As a New Jersey Public Research Interest Group intern, School of Arts and Sciences junior Annabel Pollioni works with other interns to educate local children in grades K through 12 on how to better serve the environment in their community.

"[We] look up local schools like North Brunswick, Edison, Milltown, and … offer the opportunity to … teach the students about energy efficiency and community involvement," said Pollioni, an intern with Energy Service Corp, one of NJPIRG's many initiatives.

Pollioni, a Toms River, N.J. native, previously attended school in California and had her first experience with NJPIRG through a neighboring school, Berkley.

"Since I didn't go to [California] Berkley, I couldn't join PIRG to go and be one of the student teachers and teach students about sex education or help guide them to … college," she said. "That was my initial experience with PIRG."

When she transferred to the University, Pollioni signed up to join the organization when she saw participants tabling to promote NJPRIG. An internship for credits was her first role with NJPIRG, which provided her with the necessary training and techniques to help educate students around the state.

"I was never told I would be doing K through 12 education and that I needed to learn a lesson plan," she said. "I was presented with what I could do, and then I chose how I could mold it to benefit me and how I would enjoy it."

This responsibility allowed her to earn a paid internship the next semester.

"Everyone was trained on the lesson, and we had just one really big day of teaching, and we had nine volunteers with us," she said. "We go there when classes started, and we taught 273 students in one day. Two students … would teach a class of 25 students at a time."

With such a large undertaking, Pollioni said for any student who wishes to get their message out, it is important to have an organization's support behind them.

"One of my really big goals is to get energy efficiency directors in every school district in the state … I wouldn't be able to reach that goal … if I didn't have a program behind me that was already nationally accredited," she said.

While reaching out to students and communities, one of Pollioni's concerns is balancing both school and her internship, but she has learned ways to effectively manage her time.

"There are so many other people working with you, you don't have to handle it alone," she said. "The amount of responsibility gets spread out, so if you can't do something, there is always someone there that can help you or take it over for you."

NJPRIG Campus Organizer Sarah Clader said interns like Pollioni keep the organization running strong.

"Interns are really the backbone of the campaign. They take a leadership role in the campaign … and come up with a vision for the campaign," said Clader, a Rutgers alumna.

While she has not worked closely with Pollioni this semester, Clader said Pollioni has come a long way with the organization, interning with several other NJPRIG campaigns including New Jersey Community Water Watch.

Clader said being a part of NJPIRG is a way for people to take their hopes and ideas about change and actually put it to work.

"The cool thing is that being an intern is an opportunity to take social problems you learn about in the classrooms and learn the skills to make a difference," she said.

Nathan Rausch, a former NJPIRG Water Watch intern, said volunteering for the organization is a good opportunity to get involved and make a difference in the community.

"It's fulfilling to be able to help out your community and environment at the same time," said Rausch, a Cook College senior. "It makes you feel like you're doing something, not just for yourself, but for everyone."

— Ariel Nagi contributed to this article.

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