Dejah Powell

Student, Cornell University

Dejah Powell is a native of Chicago, Illinois and a rising junior at Cornell University, studying Environmental and Sustainability Sciences. She became fascinated with the environment, and more specifically, with water, because of her dad. With an interest in water, she started with the most obvious place; Shedd Aquarium. While in high school, Dejah participated in a teen work-study program through the aquarium, where she worked alongside guest engagement to communicate science to visitors in a fun and engaging manner. Through Shedd, she also had the opportunity to conduct research in Bimini, Bahamas, studying the effects of urbanization on fish biodiversity.

On campus, Dejah joined Cornell University Sustainable Design (CUSD), a design team that creates dynamic and innovative solutions for economic, social, and ecological difficulties faced by the global community. Lights, the project team that she was on, implemented a light system about 20 miles off campus that would ideally allow salamanders, whose populations were declining due to being hit while crossing the road, to follow the underground culvert in place to prevent such a death. In addition, she conducts research in an environmental microbiology on campus and spent the past summer at Stanford University studying ammonia-oxidizing archaea in Monterey Bay. Additionally, through a leadership and campus sustainability class, she has also helped transform the atmosphere of Ujamaa Residential Hall at Cornell University, implementing green programs, such as movie nights and Earth Day pledges.

Through each of these experiences and opportunities that she has had, Dejah has realized how vital environmental education is to redeveloping the relationship we as humans have with the planet. This prompted her to start Get Them to the Green, whose mission is to foster a love for the environment within youth in Chicago. The organization is excited to engage with youth in a variety of ways. This past summer, they launched the first summer camp, through a partnership with The University of Chicago Collegiate Scholars Program. Students visited local community gardens, had heated debates about whether climate change was real, and created solutions to pressing environment issues such as food insecurity and water contamination. Their impact won’t end with the annual summer camp. In the future, the group hopes to provide scholarships for students to go abroad on trips focused on sustainability, environment science, and other related fields, visit schools and hold workshops, and develop partnerships with schools in Chicago to begin implementing aquaponics systems, food science labs, and community gardens which will bring the accessibility of environmental education to the forefront for these schools