By Elizabeth Sanchez and Yanna Wilhelmsen, Students from Santa Fe High School


Economy. It must be adjusted. It must be improved. New Mexico is one of the poorest states in the nation, yet little has been done. How can we work collaboratively to make change and dollars? The answer is in the term itself: economy. “Oikos” in Greek, means “family or caring for the household.” By addressing, early in their education, the sustainability aspects of the economy, which includes the social and environmental effects as well as the monetary aspects, young people have a better chance of growing into positive, caring adults. Thus they will have a better understanding of the world around them and will be prepared to flourish to the best of their abilities while helping improve our society, the economy and the planet.


Recently, Santa Fe High students held a forum attended by Superintendent Joel Boyd and school board members Steve Carillo, Glen Wikle and Susan Duncan. They heard from students about issues students face on a daily basis that create barriers to learning and graduating. Most of those students suffer from the weak economy, which contributes to the issues they deal with of homelessness, poverty, immigration challenges, lack of resources, and lack of education in their family. There will be a second forum focused on solutions.


Across the nation, from day one of their schooling, students focus on drills, which may or may not assist them in their future endeavors. Students are given unimaginative guidelines that are intended to aid in college entry and preparation. However, this kind of learning is dull and may push students away, rather than increase the numbers of graduates who are ready to solve real-world problems. Innovation and imagination are not emphasized in most schooling. Secondary schools keep teaching to prepare for colleges that exist more and more in the past. In fact, many colleges are changing their ways in the interest of improving the world, rather than solely using obsolete textbooks.


Why shouldn’t younger children have opportunities to be exposed to sustainability-based education? If you ask students what sustainability means, most of them won’t know, or only know a vague definition. High schools don’t teach sustainability even though it would benefit students a lot. It would not only help them to solve their day-to-day problems, but if taught it in a compelling and meaningful way, it would also motivate them to learn and improve communities. Colleges that know this have green programs that focus on sustainability. Harvard, Yale and many state universities are offering these programs. And check out the Eco-League colleges. This sort of education helps ensure that we have economic systems that won’t collapse at the hands of a few greedy, exploitive and powerful people.


Furthermore, the impact of dropouts in our country costs us billions! Engaging students in career-ready programs and exposing them to real-world issues will surely allow teachers to pave the road to a more progressive future. More enthusiastic students bring higher graduation rates. Higher graduation rates bring more jobs. More jobs bring more experienced, caring people, who will, in turn, bring rapid solutions to the planet’s issues. If New Mexico were to increase its graduation rate by a mere 10 percent, over $500 million would be added to its economy.


Today, students are beginning to speak out about these issues. They truly understand that they are able to alter school systems by focusing on schools that have already achieved engaging students in school, using their ideas as a template for inspiration. As poetically proclaimed by a student at the Santa Fe High forum:


Do you hear the evolution

Of the revolution?


We are forming a solution

To the persistent mind-pollution


To dig up the scorning answers to this confusion,

Which has been a twisted illusion

Of the institution,

That has sent our creativity to the stage of execution.


This poem alludes to the fact that we not only have to clean up the trash we have physically created in our environment, but we must also clean up all the “trash” that old, conventional ways of thinking and learning have done to pollute our minds. We must realize that education is one of the keystones to developing and maintaining a sustainable economy and society.



Elizabeth Sanchez is a sophomore at Santa Fe High. She writes and performs poetry, is an honor student and will be attending a journalism workshop at Stanford this summer.


Yanna Wilhelmsen is a student in residence at Santa Fe High from the Netherlands. She is interested in documentary-video and climate-change issues.




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