Student devotes free time to environmental sustainability efforts

Abby Lammers works on one of her many environmental sustainability projects. Photo courtesy of Abby Lammers.

By Elizabeth Berson, Junior, Parkway North High School

Abby Lammers is a senior at Parkway North High School who has been influential in her community by pushing for environmental sustainability. Abby, who earned a perfect score on both the ACT and the SAT standardized tests and will be attending Northwestern University in the fall of 2015, attended Saul Mirowitz Reform Jewish Academy for elementary school and is a member of Shaare Emeth Congregation. She spent her high school years at Parkway North converting her passions and aspirations into fuel and motivation. Although she is a member of many clubs including marching band, Abby’s biggest  commitment at school has been to the environment.

“My ultimate goal is to become the sustainability director for a large company,” Abby said, “helping them to streamline operations and reduce waste wherever possible.”

Abby’s love for the environment was cultivated at a young age through her educational experiences at RJA.

“[At school] there was a huge focus on “tikkun olam,” or repairing the world,” Abby said. “In 4th grade, I remember that we did a project on how we could make our homes ‘greener.’” Abby made a recycling bin for her house at a time when recycling had not yet entered the mainstreatm in St. Louis. 

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“The most influential thing, though, was reading and discussing Dr. Seuss’s ‘The Lorax.’ I first read it in kindergarten, and I’ve never forgotten the lesson of protecting and restoring the environment,” Abby said. 

Throughout her education, Abby’s passion for the environment steadily grew along with her knowledge and accomplishments. She became the leader of Parkway North’s Lexus Eco Challenge team and brought environmental awareness to a new level within the school and community. The Lexus Eco Challenge is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) contest that provides grants to teams of students who complete a project that moves toward environmental sustainability and positively impacts their communities. Science teacher and mentor Russ Barton oversees Parkway North’s Lexus Eco Challenge team.

“Abby has been recognized for the Lexus Eco Challenge year after year for everything from composting to Pollinator habitat restoration,” said Barton. “She has been a perennial leader on Envirothon a team which has been second in state behind only a repeated national top five team.”

Through classes, the competiton, and a shared commitment to increasing environmental stability, Abby and Barton have fostered a close bond.

“I think my most influential teacher so far has been Mr. Barton,” said Abby. “He has taught me so much not just about the nuances of environmental science, but also about how to design and lead a project and incite change.”

It is not only Abby.’s intelligence and competency that inclines Barton to believe in her, however.

“Abby is one of the few individuals who at any point in their life really makes an effort to make the world better because of her presence.” said Barton. “She is not happy to just pass through life and build her name, she wants to build a trail of better opportunities and resources for others and to think that she has been doing this since before she came to North is exceptional.”

Barton has played a leading role in Abby’s intense commitment to learning and shows how positively a strong mentorship relationship can affect students. However, Abby’s success in school and tests may also be an impact of her family’s philosophy on school.

“My family has always maintained that tests are a picture of your performance in one hour of one day, more of a snapshot than a meaningful assessment of ability,” Abby explained. “When I take tests, especially the SAT and ACT, I try to remember that there really isn’t any pressure, and that the worst thing that happens is you retake it.”

In addition to her outlook on school, Abby’s connection to Judaism has been a part of shaping her identity and helping her explore her potential.

“I like to think that I approach situations with a Jewish mindset,” said Abby. “I grew up in a house and at a school where Jewish values were emphasized, and I think that is reflected in the way I treat others and approach life in general.”

Abby is an example for upperclassmen who struggle to balance their committments, and is a model for concentration on an important cause. 

 “Even if you can do everything, you don’t need to,” said Abby. “A lot of students looking to get into highly competitive schools will try to focus on being number one in everything, or will take on too much, but finding just one or two things that you love to do will keep you motivated and less stressed.”