A Knight in shining arbor

Nature-loving sophomore devoted to keeping campus clean


Lanie Sepehri

Inspired by her childhood days swimming and hiking along the Greenbelt, sophomore Hazel Johnson took over as the president of the Environmental Knights club to keep the campus clean and spread an environmentally-conscious message to her peers.

Near the end of Gus Fruh Trail, deep in the Austin Greenbelt, there is a big rock that juts out from the trail. When there is water in the creek, it becomes the perfect jumping rock. And sophomore Hazel Johnson grew up jumping from it.

Memories of swimming and hiking along the Greenbelt with her family are some of Johnson’s fondest. Austin’s nature is part of her past. As president of the Environmental Knights club, Johnson is working to protect its future.

“[Environmental Knights’] mission really resonated with me because I love nature,” Johnson said. “I care about keeping it safe and clean. And having green spaces is important for people’s overall well-being.”

Johnson’s love for nature motivated her to join Environmental Knights in her freshman year. But she wanted more for it. So at the beginning of this school year, she approached science teacher Gabriel Adame about sponsoring the club.

“[Environmental Knights’] mission really resonated with me because I love nature. I care about keeping it safe and clean. And having green spaces is important for people’s overall well-being.

— sophomore Hazel Johnson

“She was a part of [the club] as a member, but saw that there was a need for growth and expansion,” Adame said. “And just seeing and hearing the motivation that she had, I had to say yes.”

From there, Johnson took charge. As president of the club, Johnson is responsible for leading club meetings, organizing activities and communicating with club members and the groups they partner with. It may sound like a lot of responsibility, but Johnson does it because she believes in the club’s mission: keeping McCallum trash-free.

“Our goal is to have a cleaner campus,” Johnson said. “I think that’s important because it’s helpful for the environment and also just for the atmosphere of the school.”

To reach that goal, Johnson has led monthly campus cleanups with the club. While trash pickups are a small task, they make a big difference in the long run.

“Cleanups are an easier way [to help the environment] that doesn’t require as much effort, but they do make a difference, especially because we do them monthly,” Johnson said. “They keep the campus clean over time.”

Johnson is always looking for more projects to involve the club in, but she’s extremely proud of what they have accomplished. In addition to regular campus cleanups, the Environmental Knights partnered with Austin Creative Reuse, an organization that sells reusable creative materials at an affordable price.

“I’d like to work with [ACR] more because it’s a great volunteer opportunity that’s accessible to everyone,” Johnson said.

She’s highly influential to her peers. She’s just very easy to work with and talk to.

— science teacher Gabriel Adame

Johnson wants to involve the larger McCallum community in environmental awareness, too. She’s planning a “Green Week” around Earth Day, which will look similar to PALS’s Pink Week fundraiser for breast cancer research. In addition to getting the McCallum community involved in environmentalism, it will also double as a fundraiser for the Environmental Knights.

“I think [Green Week is] going to be our big thing this year that everything’s culminating towards,” Johnson said. “We’re still in pretty early planning stages, but we’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming sessions to come up with ideas to make it interesting for the entire student body, because we want to get everyone involved.”

Adame has noticed that although Johnson expects a lot from her Environmental Knights, her flexibility and passion make its members willing to do their part.

“She’s highly influential to her peers,” Adame said. “She’s just very easy to work with and talk to. The members definitely don’t mind when she has a sudden request such as helping out the week of [an event] or something like that.”

Sophomore and club vice president Ivy Christie shares Adame’s perspective, especially after working closely with Johnson to run the club.

Hazel is extremely responsible as a leader. She shows a lot of passion for Environmental Knights and constantly is proving herself as a fantastic leader.

— sophomore Ivy Christie

“Hazel is extremely responsible as a leader,” Christie said. “She shows a lot of passion for Environmental Knights and constantly is proving herself as a fantastic leader.”

Johnson is proof that if you want to make change, you have to make it yourself. For her part, Johnson is proud that the club she’s put so much work into is not only making an impact but also inspiring other students to become environmentally conscious.

“I think that the enthusiasm for the Environmental Knights says that students here really do care about the Earth and they want to do what they can,” Johnson said. “That’s important because if students don’t care now, then in the future, that will mean there aren’t people that care about the environment and there won’t be people protecting it.”