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(Original Article)

Vail senior sets sights on environmentally sustainable future

From Arizona Daily Star
Published: 05/16/2016 by Alexia Huicochea

Throughout her educational career, Lange Navarro has gone out of her way to try a little bit of everything.

There was cake decorating club, running club, math club, drama class and a media technology course — all of which the Vail Academy and High School senior has enjoyed.

So when Navarro heard about the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s Earth Camp as a middle-schooler, she figured it could be a fun way to spend the summer.

“It seemed like a science-y, nerdy club, but it actually ended up changing my entire life completely,” the 17-year-old said.

It was at Earth Camp where she was introduced to sustainable practices and the impact everyday actions have on the environment.

“I was really interested in it because we can make such a big difference,” she said.

Navarro has not only made adjustments at home, building a compost bin, being cautious about water and electricity consumption, and starting a garden. She also chose to leave her school district to enroll at Vail Academy and High School, home to electricity-generating wind turbines, water harvesting tanks, and solar panels. The school is constructed with various eco-friendly materials.

While at VAHS, Navarro immersed herself in a semester-long program at an environmental studies school in Wisconsin during her junior year.

With hopes of one one day working for the Environmental Protection Agency and collaborating with foreign countries to implement and build on sustainable practices, Navarro spent the summer in China.

“If we want to make a difference in other countries, we can’t just go in and change their ways of being,” Navarro said. “We have to learn about them, their country, their culture, their traditions and be able to talk to them about the environmental things going on. Once we make the connection, we can make a difference.”

Navarro made lasting connections during her short trip, meeting her best friend, learning Mandarin, and being exposed to the traditions and food. She also visited the Great Wall of China, where there is much to marvel over, including the presence of recycling bins, she said.

While both the Wisconsin and China experiences were invaluable, they did set the Tucson teen behind in her studies.

Fortunately, caring teachers and staff at the Vail School District campus were understanding, Navarro said, working to catch her up and encouraging her along the way to pursue her dreams.

At home, Navarro could also rely on her mother to support her passion for the environment and the adventures it has taken her on, she said.

Today, Navarro is ranked No. 7 in her class and is preparing to attend Cornell University in New York. The school has a 14 percent admittance rate and Navarro is the first VAHS student to be accepted into an Ivy League school.

She plans to major in sustainability and environmental science with a minor in international relations.

Navarro wants to serve as an inspiration and source of encouragement for her peers and the generations to come, something she has already started by working with students in lower grade levels at her K-12 school and by encouraging friends to take advantage of programming that has had an impact on her, like the Conserve School in Wisconsin.

Vail Academy and High School Assistant Principal Michael Fester has no doubt Navarro will fulfill her dreams.

“I very much have a strong inclination we will all know Lange’s name in 25-30 years as being a strong activist on the forefront with work for the environment,” he said. “This is a girl who has fully committed herself and her life to improving the world, and that’s something you don’t see in a lot of kids.”

“Certainly you see kids who may be passionate about sports — something self-gratifying,” Fester said. “But she has grand plans for herself and for the world.”