Earth Day is coming up on Thursday, April 22 and Wenatchee Valley College has developed some powerful programs to encourage and inspire students and the rest of us to do what we can to live in ways that have a lighter impact on our shared environment.

Rufus Woods

Rufus Woods

On Earth Day, there will be a poetry reading and conversation led by WVC English professor Derek Sheffield and will include Ross Gay and Scott Russell Sanders. Gay is the author of “Book of Delights,” a collection of essays about small actions of individuals that create community. Sanders is an essayist who has won the John Burroughs Natural History Essay Award, the Indiana Authors Award, and the Mark Twain Award.

The event is free to the public and you can register at

The college is also inviting college and high school students to participate in youth leadership development workshops put on by the United Nations on Monday and Tuesday, April 19-20.

Students will learn about the 17 global initiatives, which include such things as reducing poverty and hunger, caring for the land and water, addressing climate change and other aspects of furthering health and well-being.

Joan Qazi, who teaches geography and chairs WVC’s sustainability committee, said these training efforts create an opportunity for students to come up with ways to make a difference in the community.

The Monday training session will feature Shannon O’Shea of UNICEF as well as nonprofit sustainability leaders in our valley, including Jana Fischback of Sustainable Wenatchee, Blakely Brown of Upper Valley MEND, who oversees its gleaning program, and Laura Rivera of CAFE.

The second day of the training will be devoted to students working with leaders to come up with their own action plans to make contributions in the valley.

Qazi said the students “inspire me every day” with their energy, enthusiasm and desire to make positive contributions to the community.

As Qazi pointed out to me, the beauty of nature is something that everyone who lives in the Wenatchee Valley and North Central Washington appreciates. At this time of the year, with the balsamroot blooming in the foothills, our environment is coming alive.

Caring for the natural world is something we can do to “make sure that we can continue living in this wonderful place,” she said. For Qazi, what drives her interest in sustainability is a sense of gratitude for this place and the people who live here.

“Youth are leading the way on climate action, on plastic pollution,” Qazi said. “It’s their future we’re talking about.” The goal of the training is to help them develop the skills to make a difference with their efforts.

She also talked about how wonderful it is to live in a valley like ours where we can accomplish so many things by working together. That’s been the history of our valley and North Central Washington and the reason we have locally-owned utility districts that build hydroelectric facilities, not to mention the civic efforts that fostered the development of performing arts centers, ski resorts and the like.

We all have a stake in maintaining and enhancing the quality of life and the natural environment of our communities.

Rufus Woods is the publisher emeritus of The Wenatchee World. He may be reached at or 509-665-1162.

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