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Meet the SustainUS Rio+20 delegation!

The SustainUS Agents of Change program has selected its SustainUS youth delegation to the Rio+ 20 UNCSD Earth Summit this coming June. The Summit will take place in Rio de Janeiro from June 20-22 2012.  The Summit is expected to address two main thematic issues: green economy in the context of poverty eradication and sustainable development, and insitutional framework for sustainable development (also called international environmental governance).  It will also follow-up on the commitments made at the previous Earth Summit in Rio and implementation gaps, as well as new and emerging issues.

Follow their tweets @SustainUSAgents and read their blogs at www.sustainus.org/blog.

Meet the delegates...



Adam Hasz is a senior at Washington University in St. Louis studying environmental studies and urban studies.  Adam is a member of Green Action, a WashU student environmental activist group, where he has worked to highlight the influence of fossil fuel corporations on university policy.  Over the past four years, Adam has been heavily involved with the youth climate movement, organizing for 1Sky, 350.org, the Sierra Student Coalition, and the Energy Action Coalition.  Adam co-founded the Missouri Student Environmental Coalition and is constantly working to spread his passion for climate justice throughout the “Show Me” state.  Outside of environmental activism, Adam enjoys reading, running, cooking, and playing the tenor saxophone.  Adam believes that the ultimate solution to climate change is sustainable and equitable development, and he is very excited to represent Missouri youth at the Rio+20

Angela Kim is from in Queens, New York. She is currently an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College, majoring in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environment and Development. This spring 2012, she will be studying resource management in the Brazilian Amazon. She has previously worked for Asian Cinevision and We Are New York, advocating equitable opportunities for people of color, as well as interned for Women's Environment and Development Organization, researching governance institutions. Her main interests involve resistance to the green economy discourse and environmental racism.


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. joined SustainUS in 2009 when she was invited to be a part of the Agents of Change delegation to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference (COP 15). She is currently Chair of SustainUS and works at Climate Interactive where she supports the development of their climate and energy policy simulations. In these roles she works to facilitate a greater understanding of the world's present and future challenges through accessible mediums. Ellie has worked on the Berkshire Encyclopedia of Sustainability, served as chair of the Southern Energy Network's Steering Committee, Executive of Sustainability in UNC Asheville's Student Government, founder of the NC Student Climate Coalition, leader of her campus environmental group, and keynote speaker at conferences and community events. Ellie lives in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. When not responding to emails and trying to fix this planet up, she enjoys biking, rock climbing, and trail running.


Emily Nosse-Leirer is an undergraduate at Ohio State University, studying Geography and pursuing a minor in Economics. Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, she became interested in the environment and climate change after spending a summer working and studying in New Orleans. Seeing the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina and interacting daily with people who were committed to helping the city recover and become more resilient, Emily was struck by the importance of sustainable planning in the twenty-first century. Shortly after, she became involved with SustainUS in 2011 when she was invited to join the group’s delegation to Rio+20. She is politically active on campus through the Ohio State College Democrats, and works to prepare East African refugees and other immigrants for their citizenship tests with Community Refugee and Immigration Services, a Columbus non-profit. Still fascinated with New Orleans, Emily is currently conducting research on the relationship between poverty rates and the low elevation of neighborhoods in the city and the way that city planners seek to address issues of environmental and social justice in a time of volatile weather and politics.


Hannah Freedman is a Davis Scholar at United World College-USA, an international school of 200 students representing 84 countries in New Mexico, and will be graduating with an International Baccalaureate Diploma in the spring. From Baltimore, Maryland, Hannah has worked to integrate youth voices into environmental decision-making for years. Interning at the Baltimore Office of Sustainability, she collected youth input for the city sustainability plan, wrote a sustainability handbook for the city school system, and led the Youth Advisory Board to the city (2008 nominee for the Presidential Environmental Youth Award). Hannah also co-founded Baltimore Youth Environmental Response and spoke on the importance of youth activism, especially in the environment, at Ignite- Baltimore, a speaker series similar to the TED talks. After receiving a full scholarship to attend UWC-USA, she relocated to New Mexico, where she continues her environmental work while exploring other interests. In early 2011, she and Sophia Sennett (below) collaborated in leading a two-day conference on Ethical Solutions to Environmental Classism for UWC and the greater New Mexico community. They were selected to present a workshop on the same topic at Power Shift three months later, where Hannah also led and facilitated the Southwestern regional breakout session. She has been studying constructive engagement of conflict and mediation skills for the past two years and is excited to see and use practical applications of such. Rio+20 is a pivotal time for the international community, and Hannah is excited to take part.


Hudson McFann grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and graduated from Ohio State University in 2010 with a BA in geography. As an undergraduate, he coordinated environmental advocacy and awareness initiatives as president of Students for a Sustainable Campus and served on the President’s Council on Sustainability Advisory Group. A LEED AP, he was also director at Greenovate, a Columbus-based green building supply company, for two years. After completing his undergraduate study, Hudson moved to Canada to conduct independent research on the social geographies of waste commerce as a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Toronto. He is now a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and Beinecke Scholar at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where he is conducting master’s research on the impacts of the Khmer Rouge revolution on children in Cambodia. Hudson has presented the results of his research projects in Las Vegas and Washington, DC, as well as in Canada, Brazil, and France. As a member of the SustainUS delegation to the UNCSD, he is eager to advocate for commitments from the international community to addressing the effects of armed conflict on sustainable development. Hudson also served on the SustainUS delegation to CSD-19.


 Kit Dobyns is a Public Service Scholar majoring in Africana Studies at Cornell University.  He previously served as the Executive Director of Social Business Consulting, a student-run non-profit that works with social entrepreneurs globally. He has traveled and worked extensively in sub-Saharan Africa, and he is particularly interested in achieving positive outcomes for East Africa at Rio+20. When free, Kit enjoys spending time with his family and watching college basketball. His dream job is to play for the Miami Heat with LeBron and Dwayne.



Lauren Borsa is a native of Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  She completed a B.S. in Geography from the Pennsylvania State University and is now a second year graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh pursing a Master’s Degree in International Development with an emphasis on Development Planning and Environmental Sustainability.  Lauren spent a year in Bloemfontein, South Africa as a Young Adult in Global Mission with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, serving alongside multiple service organizations within her local community. However, environmental sustainability and sustainable development are her true passions.   This past summer, Lauren was actively engaged in the Rio+20 preparatory process through her internship at the U.S. Department of State and became very familiar with the two major themes of the conference and the three integrated and mutually reinforcing pillars of sustainable development.  She believes that youth are a critical part of this conference, and that future leaders should be at the table for conversations related to future sustainable development practices.  After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in project management, encouraging sustainable and environmentally-friendly development practices.



Leslye Penticoff, originally from Moscow, Idaho, is now a community organizer with People Acting in Community Together (PACT) in San Jose, California. At PACT she develops online communications strategies to support their grassroots campaigns for social justice. Leslye graduated from Wellesley College in 2011 with a degree in Environmental Studies and a focus on ethics and climate change migration. At Wellesley, she was a leader in Students for a Just and Stable Future’s campaign to create bold policy targets for carbon emissions' reduction in Massachusetts, and was first introduced to SustainUS when she represented a South American nonprofit (Fundación Biosfera) at COP 15 in Copenhagen. Leslye is passionate about community-based and sustainable development, having witnessed the pitfalls of top-down development through prior development work in a slum outside of La Plata, Argentina, and she is excited that organizations like SustainUS are helping to change the balance of power between major international decisionmakers and the public to whom they are (should be) accountable.


A writer, activist and traveler, Lisa Curtis's experience ranges from working in the White House to serving as Peace Corps Volunteer in a small Nigerien village and collaborating with women entrepreneurs in India. Currently she does marketing/communications for a small solar finance company called Solar Mosaic in Berkeley, CA. For more about Lisa, check out her blog at www.lisamariecurtis.com


 Marisol Becerra is a 1st year master’s student at the School of Natural Resources and Environment at University of Michigan studying Environmental Justice.  Her passion for environmental justice began as a high school student volunteer with Chicago’s Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) when she discovered that she lived four blocks away from a coal power plant. In 2008, Marisol received the prestigious Brower Youth Award for producing OurMap of Environmental Justice, an interactive online map that includes youth-created videos to educate her community about environmental injustices. Marisol aspires to obtain a Ph.D. in Environmental Justice with the goal of bridging educational gaps through community based participatory research methods. Marisol looks forward to work with the grassroots international youth movement at Rio+20 and engage in a mutual learning exchange on how we can move towards a sustainable world for future generations.


Matt Maiorana is in love with international politics. Over the past 4 years he's done a bit of everything in the field -- he worked for the US State Department, Congress, Avaaz.org, the Climate Action Network, UNEP, and has been to roughly 14 UN negotiations. He's also worked with SustainUS for 2 years as the Policy Co-Coordinator and as a Steering Committee member. He's excited to get involved again! He recently graduated from College of the Atlantic and is now living in New York roughly 45 minutes away from UN headquarters (by bike). In his spare time he's working to launch DailyUN, an international news service focused on making international governance more accountable. He also loves Avocados.


Michael Sandmel is a senior at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where he is pursuing an interdisciplinary concentration in ecology and economics.  He also works for NYU's Office of Sustainability, through which he has launched and now runs the NYU Bike Share, the first ever large-scale bicycle-sharing network in New York City.  Mike spent last spring studying Scandinavian social democracy and environmental policy in Stockholm, Sweden.  He is now heavily immersed in a senior thesis project concerning the role of environmental politics and sustainability narratives in the #occupy movement.


 Olimar Maisonet-Guzman is a 2011 Boren Fellow. She is in Brazil studying energy and hydro-power governance. Her research looks into the role of the water-energy nexus in Brazil’s water governance structure with a particular focus on basin-wide integrated frameworks. Olimar is a 2009 Truman Scholar and a 2010 Truman-Albright Fellow at the US State Department. She interned at the White House Council on Environment Quality and has worked alongside environmental NGOs in Washington DC. Before arriving to DC, Olimar was the captain of the Puerto Rico's Epee Fencing Team and traveled to Asia, Europe and Latin America. She is fluent in Spanish, English and Portuguese. Olimar is the US delegate at the World Water Youth Parliament in Marseilles, France. Olimar holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Communications, and a minor in Economics. She is completing her Master’s Studies in Global Environmental Policy at American University in Washington, D.C. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico.


Pamela Soto is a junior at Yale University majoring in environmental studies with an area of concentration in international environmental policy. At Yale, she is a member of both YSEC (the Yale Student Environmental Coalition) and STEP (Sustainability Education Peers). Born and raised in New York City, she has spent her past two summers as an intern with WE ACT in Harlem and UPROSE in Brooklyn, fighting for environmental justice in low-income communities of color. She will be spending her spring semester in Fortaleza, Brazil through an SIT study abroad program on social justice and sustainable development, and cannot wait to attend Rio+20.



Patrick Lau was born in Seattle, but his family now lives in Hong Kong. As a sophomore at the University of Michigan, he is a political science major with a minor in computer science and sustainability. Between high school and college, he took a gap year as a research intern at Civic Exchange, an independent public policy think tank in Hong Kong that has a focus on social, economical and environmental policy. In his free time, Patrick is a part of the Michigan Ballroom Dance Team.


Rebecca Chan grew up in Encinitas, California and is now a senior at Columbia University, majoring in environmental chemistry and political science. At Columbia, Rebecca is on the editorial boards of two academic journals, focusing on the social sciences and sustainable development. Rebecca is a Udall Scholar and a NOAA Hollings Scholar, and has worked for the National Ocean Service, the California Center for Sustainable Energy, West Harlem Environmental Action, and Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Rebecca was a member of the British Council youth delegation to the G8 Environment Ministers Meeting in Kobe in 2008, and is looking forward to participating in another international environmental conference. Currently, Rebecca is writing her political science thesis on small island nations and international climate legislation. Rebecca is especially interested in environmental justice, and plans to attend law school to study a human rights framework for addressing climate change. In her free time, Rebecca enjoys playing the piano, meandering through New York City, spending too much time in coffee shops, and practicing yoga.


Rina Kuusipalo is a student at Harvard concentrating in Social Studies, focusing on social, environmental and economic systemic change and questions of fair distribution. She has a particular interest in the transition to a more sustainable and just economy, and interned at the new economics foundation in London in the summer, working mainly on financial and banking reform in the UK and a Festival for Transition to re-imagine and act in conjunction with Rio+20. Rina grew up in Finland, but graduated high school with the IB at the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, with students from 80 countries. There she led an initiative on trade justice, was editor of the UWC student magazine and organized Model UN. This she continues at Harvard, along with political and labor activism, being the secretary of the Environmental Action Committee, and journalism. Rina was a research assistant at the Kennedy School, writing on participatory democracy, and is fascinated by people's power to unite and fight. She also worked in the NGO Plan, New Economics Institute, a prison-tutoring program, a refugee camp in the Palestinian territories, and with community organizations in Rwanda. Rina previously attended CSocD-49, CSD-19 and COP-17 with SustainUS, and hopes for a CSD-20 filled with progressive ideas and substantial action.


Sameera Savarala was born in Hyderabad, India, and raised in Louisville, KY. She studied at the University of Kentucky (UK) and the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. As a leader of the student environmental organization, UK Greenthumb, she worked on various projects and helped implement a student green fee. After college, Sameera worked with the Chicago Department of Transportation on active transportation education. In 2009, the Aspen Institute recognized her as an Aspen Environment Forum Scholar. Currently, she works as a WRD Environmental Consultant to the City of Chicago for the Chicago Conservation Corps (C3) program. She manages communications for C3 and assists with afterschool environmental clubs and an environmental leadership training program. She recently attended the 19th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-19) as a SustainUS Agent of Change and as a Transportation policy focal point for the Major Group of Children and Youth. In the lead up to Rio+20, she is working on policy and State Department dialogue with U.S. youth.  Sameera also serves on the SustainUS Steering Committee as Secretary.  When she is not working, she loves to garden and travel.


Sarah Dayringer completed her Masters of Arts Degree in Public Policy at the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. Her specialization is environmental and energy policy.  She received her Bachelor's of Arts in International Area Studies, focusing on Central Asia, Russia and Eurasia from the University of Oklahoma.  Sarah has been working directly with international, regional and national governmental and non-governmental organizations and has been specifically coordinating student initiatives and collaborating with partners in communications and outreach initiatives concerning sustainable development. She has also worked in area specific policy work, as her research in Russia, Northern Ireland, Hungary, and work in Armenia has shown. Sarah's work history includes, three years of experience in research, policy analysis, grant procurement, communications, capacity building and technology transfer, with Peace Corps, SustainUS, United Nations' Major Group for Children and Youth, and the United Nation Environmental Program. She is currently playing a large facilitation role in the United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development and am a junior expert on Sustainable Development. Sarah is an excellent liaison between diverse stakeholders, such as academic, political, scientific, industry and social actors. In addition, she has two years experience teaching and developing curriculum for basic health and hygiene classes. Through her work experience, She has been sucessful in, motivating, students, staff and volunteers, resolving conflict, building consensus, partnership collaboration and networking.


Sarah Pendergast is a high school math teacher in Jefferson, Louisiana (right outside New Orleans). She started as a Teach for America corps member. She graduated from the University of Michigan, having studied environmental and sustainable development policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Coursework in human rights and past UN negotiations on the topic sparked her interest in the connections between environmental sustainability and human rights. During college, Sarah was a steering committee member with the Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition (MSSC), a burgeoning network of young people across the state. The MSSC connects young activists across a broad spectrum of environmental issues through annual state-wide summits and a community of peers. Most notably, Sarah worked in Congress, as an intern in the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. She completing research and supported a dozen hearings on The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009-- the most recent climate and clean energy bill in the US-- which later passed in the House, but was stalled and never went to a vote in the Senate. She brings compassion and purpose with the urgent needs of her home state and adoptive city. She's looking forward to working with passionate young people in preparation for the UNCSD conference in Rio.


Sophia Sennett is a graduate of the School for Ethics and Global Leadership in Washington, DC and is currently a Davis Scholar attending United World College of the American West (UWC-USA) in New Mexico. Raised in Blaine, Washington, on the United States-Canada border, Sophia developed an early interest in environmental policy in relation to international affairs and is currently involved in research looking at local and global externalities associated with exporting coal from her community in Washington State to China. Collaborating with Hannah Freedman (above), Sophia organized an annual conference at UWC centered on ethics and environmental classism and presented at Powershift 2011 where she discussed the need for international protections and designations for climate refugees. Dedicated to raising funds and awareness about the most effective and sustainable ways to promote peace while reducing poverty, Sophia maintains a blog at http://peacepennies.org. During her final year of high school Sophia enjoys creating environmental sculpture, maintaining the campus greenhouse, and spending time in New Mexico's wilderness. Given the urgent need for the world to engage in sustainable development and poverty eradication, Sophia looks forward to advocating for global commitments at Rio+20.    


Delegates unable to attend Rio+20:


Lauren Nutter is a 2010 Watson Fellow and a recent graduate of the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME. Lauren has been the Agents of Change Coordinator for SustainUS. Through SustainUS, Lauren has helped organize and prepare youth delegations to the United Nations Climate Change Negotiations, Commission on Social Development and the Commission on Sustainable Development. She traveled to Poland and Copenhagen for the UNFCCC COP negotiations and worked with youth from around the world to have a presence there and impact the negotiations. Lauren is also leadership instructor for a non-profit, the Student Leadership Training Program. Through SLTP she has spent the past several summers teaching leadership skills to high school students throughout the New England area, tackling issues of bullying, abusive relationships, and issues of hate that students deal with every day. On campus she was involved with the local SustainUS organization, and was a Resident Advisor. In her free time Lauren enjoys spending time with friends, dance, and discovering new and wonderful foods.


Rachel Briggs is originally from Honolulu, Hawaii. As a first year student at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, she is studying Human Ecology (often described as the relationship between humans and our environment). In her studies she is focusing on environmental policy, and learning to look at issues of sustainability in an interdisciplinary and multidimensional way. In high school, Rachel ran her school’s environmental club, and in an independent project she researched, proposed and implemented a number of environmental initiatives at her school (including creating a compost system and xeriscape). She also volunteered on the Mayor’s Environmental Task Force and at the Hawaii Nature Center. She attended CSD 18, and looks forward to continuing her activism and education at CSD 20.


Abigail Borahis a junior at Middlebury College majoring in Conservation Biology. Abigail represented SustainUS at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Mexico (COP-16) and South Africa (COP-17). She is thrilled to join the Rio+20 delegation this year. Abigail is an active member of Middlebury's umbrella environmental organization, Sunday Night Group, as well as a volunteer at the Middlebury College Organic Garden. 


Ariel Kagan spent her childhood working in community gardens in St. Paul, Minnesota. She studied Economics and Environmental Studies at  Mount Holyoke College, where she also founded the Food Justice Society and managed the student garden. The fall semester of her Junior year was spent working on an organic dairy farm in France. Switching from land to sea, Kagan took an internship at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where she worked with the Deepwater Horizon Spill response team. After writing her thesis on international trade and fisheries, she worked as a research intern at Oceana, exposing the frequent mislabeling of illegal seafood in U.S. markets. She currently lives in Washington D.C. and loves to cook, bike, and read the news.


Charlie Young is currently studying at Harvard University, where he is busy co-founding a progressive New Economics think tank, expecting to major in Social Studies. He was born in London and following a fateful crossing with an ash tree and a wily activist-arborist, started his life of activism. Since, Charlie has been awarded UK youth activist of the year and elected to represent his generation at the World Economic Forum, G20 and Global Humanitarian Forum, the island nation of Kiribati at two UN Framework Conventions on Climate Change and co-coordinator of the advocacy group UNfairplay. His experiences at the UN convinced him of the necessity and beauty of systemic approaches to dealing with the world’s multiple and interrelated crises. He has interned or worked for more than 15 think tanks, NGOs and Governments in the US, Uganda, Mexico, Costa Rica and the UK including the New Economics Foundation and Institute, 350.org, PIRC, 10:10 and the Welsh Assembly Government. Charlie has co-written a chapter ‘the Case for a New Economics’ for ‘Regeneration’ and is helping coordinate a series of initiatives to integrate new economics into the youth and climate movements. His work is colored by years of Native American survival skills, spirituality and philosophy and, after working for the leader of the UK Green Party in the Houses of Parliament, he has plans to go into politics.


Katrina Kelly is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in International Relations at the University of Nottingham where her dissertation project focuses on the institutional comparison of the green economy in the United States and European Union. She entered her doctorate program through her contact with Nottingham at the World Exposition 2010 Low-Carbon London project held in Shanghai, China, where she was studying China's renewable energy policies for her master's dissertation. Katrina is now serving as a research intern at SustainUS where she will represent the delegation in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, mainly through her research on the green economy.  Her previous research areas focus on European and American Politics, Global Political Economy, and Environmental Studies. Katrina became interested in environmental politics when her father relocated to New Mexico from Pittsburgh, PA. A resident of two champion green cities, Katrina began working with the local Green Building Councils during her undergraduate degree at Duquense University. Her master's program at Hult International Business School in Central London provided her with exposure to European renewable energy policies, which she realized was the cure to the American economic crisis.  As a French and German speaker, Katrina still resides in London where she enjoys traveling, cooking, gardening, and sampling the fares of European cuisine.


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