Commentary | PHS leads the way in climate and societal challenges education

Prof. Leonardo (left) discussing with PHS students (left to right) Greta Schleuning (senior), Thomas Moision and Mehrad Makekpour (freshmen).

As a parent of a freshman, I couldn’t be more excited to learn about the series that Piedmont High School launched last year “A Conversation On: Climate Change, Social Justice, Mental Health and the Societal Impact of Technology”.

This initiative has become a source of inspiration for me, showcasing the school’s dedication to empowering its students with knowledge beyond the textbook, and to preparing our kids to be well-informed and engaged citizens of the world.

The initiative was launched last year by Daniel Banin, now a senior at Piedmont High School, sponsored by the vice principal Erin Igoe and school’s counselor Amanda Carlson. Daniel has created an inspiring lecture series that brings experts from UC Berkeley, Stanford, and other universities across the US, to engage in lively discussion with the students on issues around societal challenges, opportunities, and the impact of technology. The speaker series occurs once a month, during the Academy period.

“My goal in doing this initiative was not only to make sure that we are all aware about these pressing issues and their impact on our society, but also to foster a sense of responsibility and leadership among us, while providing a platform where we can safely share our ideas and points of view”, said Daniel Banin.

The series has created a powerful space for dialogue, collaboration and a network of mentors for students who want to be engaged. The series has also given students opportunities at internships in fields of interest. Last year Daniel has connected with world experts such as Dr. Meuret, from SMU, a pioneer on new treatments for anxiety disorders; Prof. Salleo from Stanford, an expert on neuromorphic devices and Prof. Smith from UC Berkeley, an expert on
equal safe water accessibility and health equity.

The first speaker this year was Prof. Leonardo, who spent an hour meeting and engaging in discussions with the students. Prof Leonardo is the former Dean and a Professor at the School of Education at UC Berkeley. He talked about the importance of educational knowledge for the democratization of schools and society.

The impact of this initiative on the students is obvious. They have become more aware of the world around them, more informed about climate science, and more inspired to take meaningful action.

Matteo Scanu, a senior at PHS shared “The lecture series has opened my eyes to what’s happening in the world. It’s not just about textbooks and theories; it’s about real-life challenges and exciting directions that research is taking. I feel inspired and hopeful”.

The success of this program has even reached beyond PHS’s walls. Esperanza Ritz heard about the program last November, while visiting a friend in Piedmont and enjoying the Piedmont Turkey Trot “I wish we had this program in our school back home,” she said. The next thing she did was connect her daughter Madeleine with Daniel, and the series was live-broadcasted in Dallas as well.

“I hope that other schools will also take the lead, to better prepare their students around these central issues and that they will soon become part of anyone’s curriculum.” said Daniel Banin.

As the lecture series at Piedmont High School sails through its second year, it’s clear that this commitment to societal challenges literacy is not just a passing trend and I am hopeful that it will become an increasingly core component. I am excited to see how this program will continue to evolve and inspire students in the years to come.

In a world where the future is uncertain, PHS is providing our children with the knowledge, skills, and inspiration they need to become informed and engaged global citizens. I am proud to be part of a community that places such a strong emphasis on preparing our youth for a brighter, more sustainable future.

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