“Loomis’ faculty, the community, the available resources, and programs have all contributed to the way I engage with the world.”
Anya Sastry had always been interested in current events, human rights issues, and other pressing global concerns, but she was not as “invested” in making change until she came to Loomis as a freshman. First inspired by older students who were engaging in discussions on campus after the 2016 presidential election, Anya took a leading role her sophomore year with fellow youth activists on campus to organize a student-led walkout and rally against gun violence.
That same year, motivated by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, Anya volunteered to be a co-leader of the Youth National Climate Strike in her home state of Illinois. She also helped mobilize more than 100 Loomis students and faculty to march on the Connecticut State Capitol steps for the Climate Strike in September 2019.
In the summer between her junior and senior years, Anya used funds awarded through Loomis’ Norton Fellows Program to film a documentary about people in Minnesota and her hometown of Chicago, Illinois, who were coping with social and public health issues related to pollution, economic injustice, and local government corruption. “Environmental injustice is a topic of deep importance to me, as it is a facet of the climate crisis that individuals rarely focus on," she shares.
Anya’s journey at Loomis is just one of many examples of students who turn their developing passions into their purpose — a purpose lived to effect positive change in their local and national communities.
Frontliners: Fighting for Environmental Justice
A documentary by Anya Sastry, a Norton Fellows project
In her senior spring, Anya Sastry 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.
Youth Climate Strike
In December 2019, Anya addressed the crowd at a climate change rally on the capitol steps in Hartford, Connecticut. Earlier in the fall, she helped organize more than 100 fellow LC students and faculty for the September Youth Climate Strike. On the day of the rally, Anya traveled to New York City to attend the UN Youth Climate Summit.
Pelicans Take Action
In April 2018, during an entirely student-organized initiative, hundreds of Loomis Chaffee students joined students nationwide in the National School Walkout to protest government's failure to protect students from gun violence on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings. Anya helped to organize the event and took the stage to share her personal perspective on gun violence.
Read more about the walkout and how Loomis students took action against gun violence.