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Norton Fellow Unveils Documentary Film Project

Senior Anya Sastry on Friday, April 24, unveiled her documentary film about individuals engaged in the fight for environmental justice and the disproportionate impact of climate change on underserved communities.

The film, “Frontliners: Fighting for Environmental Justice,” was released on school media channels to coincide with Loomis Chaffee’s 2020 Earth Week celebration April 20–24.  

The project is an outcome of Anya’s Norton Fellowship, a summer community engagement program offered through Loomis Chaffee's Norton Family Center for the Common Good. As part of the fellowship, Anya met with and filmed people in Minnesota and her hometown of Chicago, Illinois, who are coping with social and public health issues related to pollution, economic injustice, and local government corruption. She created the film to raise awareness of these inequalities.  

“Environmental injustice is a topic of deep importance to me, as it is a facet of the climate crisis that individuals rarely focus on. While we may not be experiencing first-hand the effects of the climate crisis, there are many communities in the United States, as well as around the world, that are dealing with rising sea levels, pollution and contamination, fossil fuel infrastructure, health issues, and more because of factors such as race, gender, and socioeconomic status that are putting them at a disadvantage,” Anya wrote in her summary of her Norton Fellowship project.

Anya has been a leader of several social and climate activism organizations and activities in her years at Loomis. The sharing of “Frontliners” with the community during Earth Week serves as an appropriate capstone to her many and varied high school activism and community service commitments.   

Eric LaForest, Keller Family Director of the Norton Family Center for the Common Good, remarked that Anya’s Norton Fellowship film “is a great example of what true community engagement looks like.” According to Eric, “We don’t have all the answers, and so it’s important to go out beyond the Island and learn from and share in the experiences of others.” He noted that the disparate impact of climate change on underserved communities often is left out of discussions of environmental issues. “Anya’s film illustrates why those topics should be considered side by side,” he said. “If you watch this film, you will encounter new voices and new opportunities to engage with the climate movement.”

Anya said many people helped her with the Norton Fellowship summer project, and she learned a great deal about community activism, pressing environmental concerns, storytelling, and filmmaking from them. The fellowship helped to fund her travel expenses and her purchase of filming equipment. Community organizers Akilah Sanders-Reed, an oil pipeline resistance fighter in Minnesota, and Allison Cavallo, director of the Chicago Youth Alliance for Climate Action, helped connect Anya to individuals on the front lines of environmental justice efforts. Professional film editor Nichole Gellman, based in Los Angeles, provided expertise and edited Anya’s raw footage. Anya’s family friend Tricia Lewis acted as a project mentor and supported Anya throughout the process.

Connect to view Anya’s 30-minute film, “Frontliners: Fighting For Environmental Justice”   

Connect to the Norton Family Center for the Common Good webpage to learn more about the Norton Fellowship and other center initiatives.

File photo: Anya at a Student Activities Clubs Fair in Grubbs Quadrangle