#1 Here to Make a Difference

My name is Mary Nagy-Benson and I am a junior at Middlebury Union High School. I am here because I have many interests and I care about many things, some that are in my control, some that I can influence and some that are out of my control. However, I want to make a difference. I am here because I want to be around students who also have many interests and who care about many things. I am here to make friends and explore topics that are interesting to me, topics that my school doesn’t offer as classes. I can feel overwhelmed when I think of all the things that are wrong with the world, but here I can feel like I can make an impact toward one thing, by spending a lot of time with the topic, learning, talking with others, something I wouldn’t have the courage and determination to do by myself. I am here for the experience and for the result. I am excited and a bit anxious to use the for the documentary-making process, one which is very new to me. I am here because this is a program where I can become comfortable doing things that I wouldn’t do otherwise. Last fall, I went to a semester school for 10th graders in western North Carolina. There, my passions blossomed and I felt like I could make a difference with the right connections and tools. My peers and I had great plans to start a march: YACA, Youth Activist for Climate Action. And although this march hasn’t happened yet, a fire was started in us, we wanted to change the world. With What’s the Story I feel like I can make a dent in some of the daunting topics our state (and our generation) is dealing with, such as, organic farmers who are living in poverty, migrant workers lifestyles, how Vermont is teaching about climate change (if at all), and how Vermont schools can be run on 100% renewable energy. With the tools What’s the Story will give to me over the course of this year, I will learn about the most effective ways to learn about and create positive change for these issues. If everyone could dive into one topic in their state, there would be a lot of social change happening in our world. I am very excited to be in this program and I hope I will be able to work the cameras :).

Mary Nagy-Benson

6 Responses to “#1 Here to Make a Difference

  • What a great list of topics you’ve already identified! Which one do you feel most passionate about? I like that you are thinking about the impact that our eating choices and purchasing habits have on the people who actually produce the food, whether that’s the farmers or farm laborers. Why is it that we so often place such a low value on something so essential as food production?

    Making schools models for addressing climate change is also a fertile idea. Nelson Mandela said,“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This urgent issue needs that kind of power, though getting curriculum changed can be an uphill battle, let alone modifying facilities. A good place to start might be discovering one school that’s doing it right (or is on that track) and finding out how they did it.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how these ideas progress!

  • Elijah Hawkes
    5 years ago

    I am here – in Middlesex, Vermont, not far from Middlebury – and glad to be reading your blog post, Mary. I am struck by this line in your post “here for the experience and the result.” This seems a wise way to be: to be here, to be present now and to be forward-looking. I also appreciated how your post was backwards-looking, sharing something of your personal experience that led you to this project. I am here wondering about your personal story, especially those stories that connect you to climate change and migrant labor and organic farmers who struggle to make ends meet. Such important topics, with such important convergences. In addition to wondering about your own connections to those topics, I find it interesting to consider how, in some ways, they are the same topic.

  • I think that it is important to realize that there are some things that you can change, but there are some things that are outside of your control. That is important because if you realize you can’t change everything, you can focus on the things that you can change. I also like how you made a list about topics you feel strongly about. When you make a list, you are lining up everything that you want to get done, or at least, setting up options for yourself to do more. What topic do you feel most strongly about?

    I think that it is great that you have written about your previous experiences with social activism. What else has social activism led you to do? Another great thing about supportive experiences is that they kickstart your passion and lead you to do something that may be outside your comfort level.

  • Hey Mary

    I love how passionate you are, the earth needs more conscientious people like you. You mention that 100% of Vermont schools could be run on clean energy; what forms of clean energy, in your opinion, would suit Vermont’s environment best? I know out the population of wind farms has increased over the past decade, but have been revealed to produce several negative effects. Do you believe your interests in earth science and global warming have spiked a potential career path?


  • Hi Mary- I have been paired with you, to read and respond to your blogs. My name is Sally Zitzmann and I am a former teacher at Peoples Academy, friend and former colleague of Moira Donovan and Bill Rich. We three are Bread Loaf grads. I am retired, now, and finished off my career teaching English in a German high school, which was quite rewarding for me. I am happy to be a part of this project and look forward to seeing how it unfolds, for you and your cohorts and I am a bit curious about my role!

    You have identified several significant areas of interest. And you’re absolutely right about the huge number of issues that are worthy of exploration, about which increased awareness seems a must. What seems really cool to me about those areas you have identified is your emphasis on the local, from organic farmers to Vermont schools using renewables, 100%. This lends a certain authenticity to your work. Have you begun to identify resources that might be useful to you as you narrow your focus? I wonder if it might also be interesting to you to look at what seems to me to be a related issue, that of food waste (what gets left in fields, grocery stores, restaurants, family refrigerators, etc.). What, exactly constitutes food waste and how might we maximize the work of organic farmers and migrant workers, putting all of their efforts to use most effectively? I know there are Vermonters engaged in activity and education around this problem. This is just a suggestion, since I know you have a lengthy list, already, to consider and narrow for the purpose of your year’s work.

    As an aside. I am interested in your North Carolina experience. Can you share a bit of that?

    I look forward to reading your next blog and learning about what gets under your skin! And, I look forward to ongoing correspondence with you, as you consider how to move forward.

  • As a reference for what I was talking about with regard to food waste, you could check out Salvation Farms, Theresa Snow. Again, just a suggestion.

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