MA college student plans to advocate for minorities, environment


Kervens Blanc remembers playing with friends behind a two-storey concrete building when the ground started shaking. He was scared. He ran.

The next day he learned that thousands of people had died less than a quarter mile away. It was the catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti in January 2010.

Blanc was just a kid then. But last year, for his graduate project at Dearborn STEM Academy in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, he created a middle school climate change curriculum and taught sixth graders about natural disasters like those that devastated his native country.

“It felt like I got through to the kids a little bit,” he said. “Not only did I talk to them about climate change, I educated them on their environment and their future and how they can play a role.”

Blanc, 19, received a scholarship from the American Association of Blacks in Energy Greater Boston Chapter for his work and is a freshman at Fitchburg State University this year.

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How young people think about climate change

The USA TODAY Network interviewed Blanc and other young people as part of “Perilous Course,” a collaborative investigation into how people across the East Coast are coping with the climate crisis. Journalists from more than 35 newsrooms from New Hampshire to Florida spoke to ordinary people about the real-life implications, delved into the science, and examined the government’s response, or lack thereof.

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As part of the project, journalists profiled a handful of young people who have opinions on climate change and how it affects their future.

Blanc belongs to Generation Z, young people born between 1996 and 2012. A 2021 study by the Pew Research Center found that climate change is one of their top concerns: 76% of Gen Z respondents said it was one of their top societal concerns.

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Blanc is trying to stay positive but also realistic. He follows the numbers, the predictions.

“I don’t like worrying or being too scared,” said Blanc. “I’m confident that something will work out, that we won’t die because of climate change. But when I look at the stats and the direction we are going, there are many doubts.”

Young people: Some are students, activists. Some are just sick with worry. The climate crisis is all they know.

“The biggest problem related to climate change is capitalism”

Blanc, who says his life has been “a little crazy,” was born in Thomazeau, Haiti, and came to the United States at the age of 7. He said he couldn’t read or write his own name in English.

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He credited one particular teacher with mentoring him and “boosting” his education. But it wasn’t easy. At Dearborn STEM Academy, part of the Boston Public School System, Blanc said that with positive support from teachers, he spent his senior year learning a lot about the environment and climate change.

During his senior year work with sixth graders, Blanc learned that he enjoyed working with children. He and the students researched how natural disasters affect and will continue to affect the East Coast, and together they created posters on the topic of climate change.

Based on the experience, Blanc believes schools have an important role to play in educating about climate change. But he’s pointing the finger at a much larger system.

“I feel like the biggest problem in terms of climate change is capitalism,” Blanc said. “The companies out there that don’t care about the environment. They use money to influence our government officials.”

During the dog days of summer, Blanc had been thinking a lot about extreme heat and the predictions that New England and the rest of the East Coast would experience an increasing number of days of 90 degrees or more each year.

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“My sister called me the other day and said she didn’t have air conditioning in the apartment she was staying in,” he said. “She couldn’t sleep. It really bothered her. A lot of people will have to struggle with the heat waves.”

“This is our planet”

Blanc plans to study entrepreneurship at Fitchburg State University. But that doesn’t feel like enough, he said, so he wants to add a double major in marketing.

“Right now I’m getting a little taller,” he smiled.

Regardless of what career path he chooses, regardless of whether he is in a position of power, Blanc said: “I definitely intend to advocate for minorities and environmental issues. This is our planet. No amount of money could be worth more.”

– This article is part of a USA TODAY Network reporting project called “Perilous Course,” a collaborative investigation into how people across the East Coast are coping with the climate crisis. Journalists from more than 35 newsrooms from New Hampshire to Florida talk to ordinary people about real-life implications, dig into the science and examine the government’s response, or lack thereof.

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