Q&A with... Carla Paiva, launching environmental activist group at teen center
WESTPORT — Carla Paiva, a graduate of Westport schools and current Bridgeport resident, wanted to join Earth Guardians when she heard of the youth movement. Now Paiva, 22, is working to launch the first crew of the international organization in Connecticut.
Earth Guardians, a movement that catalyzes youth environmental activists to make local and global change with crews across the world, will be centered at Toquet Hall Teen Center, where Paiva is the youth services program assistant. A recent graduate, Paiva studied psychology and studio art at Southern Connecticut State University before returning to Westport to work at the Post Road East teen center several months ago.
Paiva, born in Bridgeport, lived for a time in Westport and continued at its schools, where her mother worked. She even spent time in Toquet Hall’s colorful, loft-like space as a teen herself. Personally passionate about the environment, she recently created recyclable spring decorations for the center, including clouds crafted from recycled water bottles and pillow stuffing and colorful flowers from water bottles and spray-painted soda cans.
Paiva is also crystallizing her passion into an outlet for Westport students with the Earth Guardians Crew of Westport. The after-school club is open to students of any grade throughout town and first meets Tuesday.
Join the club
The Earth Guardians Crew of Westport will hold its first meeting April 18 at 6 p.m. at Toquet Hall Teen Center.
The club is free and open to students of any grade level.
Applications are available at toquethall.org (all will be accepted).
More info can be found at earthguardians.org or facebook.com/EarthGuardiansWestport.
Q: Why did you want to launch Earth Guardians in Westport?
A: Toquet really tries to provide a diverse variety of programs so that we can appeal to all kinds of students, so we try to have something for everybody.
This is our first venture into the environmental side of things. We’ve done a bunch of stuff with art and music and movies, and we’ve teamed up with different organizations and clubs, done mental health awareness. So we’ve really done a lot of things, but never anything like this.
Q: What types of things would club members be involved in?
A: This club is definitely trying to focus more on action — less talking, more doing.
So once we have our first meeting, we kind of want to get together and figure out what kind of environmental issue do we want to tackle in Westport. What’s the biggest thing and the thing we want to work on? Make a plan to implement those changes and stuff like that…It would be a local thing, but also Earth Guardians — they do their own thing, too, and each group does their individual thing as well because it’s kind of focusing on your community and that will create a huge change. If everybody focuses on their own individual issues in their communities, it’ll make big change.
Q: In the town of Westport, especially among young people, do you think there is a certain passion for the environment?
A: Yeah, I do. I’ve seen a lot of kids, especially with (science teacher) Michael Aitkenhead over at Staples (High School). I’ve talked to him a little bit, and they have the whole Green Day celebration that they started.
I do think there is a positive outlook for this because we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on Facebook and a lot of likes and stuff so it seems promising.
Q: Why do you think something like this matters — getting kids involved in working for change?
A: We want to show kids that they have a voice and that their voice matters. And that they can use their voice to create impact and lasting change; to spur some positive growth and development in teens; to learn how to advocate for themselves and for the environment.
Q: Do you have a personal passion for the environment?
A: I have always felt a deep respect and connectedness with nature. To me, it is the most beautiful work of art in existence, both aesthetically and as a living, working organism.
Growing up, my dad worked in the field of environmental science and my family was always big on recycling, gardening and doing our own compost, so I’ve always had this mindset of trying to live in harmony with the earth, respecting and appreciating it instead of encroaching upon it, or seeing it as just an endless supply of resources free for the taking.
Our Earth is an incredible thing that never ceases to amaze and inspire me on so many different levels, and that is just one of the countless reasons why I am so passionate about doing everything I can to protect it.
Q: What has your experience been like working at the teen center so far?
A: It’s been fun. I’ve really enjoyed it. I like that I get to be creative — that’s a big thing for me. It’s been fun getting involved, getting to know the different kids and seeing how everything works. Especially since I used to come here myself, it’s really cool to see how everything gets put into place.