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Deb Perryman

have the incredible honor of working with the most misunderstood critter in North America, Teenager americanus. I am a classroom teacher. I very much love my job. I want to talk about something called service learning. I think it is one of the greatest ways for us to develop leaders.

I think we need to give young people opportunities to actually practice being leaders. There's so many things that we can do. We're always telling them to be leaders, but I don't find very often that we're giving them enough opportunities to actually lead.

I want my students to be able to meet a challenge when it arises and they come to me with a lot of challenges. Once they're used to doing a few service learning projects, they start coming to me with problems and we're solving things that go beyond environmental science. If we provide our young people the opportunities to lead, they will in fact do that.

At Elgin High School, we have 2200 students speaking 28 languages. -- 50% of our kids are in free or reduced lunch which means they're living at or below the poverty level.

ur young people are doing a lot of work in the community with little guys: 6,300 -- that's the number of students that my students taught last year alone. We partner with 115 classrooms, classroom teachers providing all kinds of services.

I find that if I get my kids doing one service learning project, I can't keep em out. I cannot keep them out of the community, they are everywhere doing all kinds of things.

You know what I don't have students asking me? "When will I ever use this again?"

These are just some topics that I think we should be working with young people on -- solid waste, all the issues that are involved with solid waste; consumerism of course; water quality; biodiversity, the threats to biodiversity.

One of my largest concerns -- oak woodlands are more endangered than tropical rain forests. California is the only state I have found that actually has any kind of legislation in place. This concerns me and it's probably a next project for my students. I want to see legislation in Illinois protecting oak woodlands -- real protection, not token protection.

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