On a Journey to Sustainability for All

– REBECCA HOLLIS, Class of 2016

My dad, uncle, and cousin all went to SBS when they were younger, and my brother and I followed in their footsteps. Some of my favorite memories were in sports—volleyball, track and field, and basketball—and I loved all of my coaches. On both the court and the field, I learned different lessons from every coach I had at SBS. Mrs. Paige, my coach for volleyball, taught us incredible confidence and dedication. She was a wonderful mentor and used to always tell me that I was tenacious. To this day I still carry that word inside of me.

After graduating from SBS I took a year off, lived in New York City, and worked on myself as an individual. Looking back, that was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I then went to George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, where I will be graduating in May 2022. My current major is Integrative Studies with a concentration on Social Innovation. I’m learning how to build a socially and environmentally conscious entity, while making a positive, long-lasting impact for everyone, regardless of race, class, or gender.

Even though I’m still currently a full time student, myself and three other George Mason students started a business called TerraStream LLC in the fall of 2020. Our company, while an LLC, works with nonprofits dedicated to sustainability, or is simply looking for sustainable practices to put in place. Our broadscale project is to transform 

Leesburg Virginia into a sustainability hub, consisting of a sustainable education system from preschool to highschool, net zero buildings financed by the local Loudon County PACE program, and eventually integrating low waste business practices to local stores and offices. PACE, which stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy, is a finance mechanism that provides funds for energy efficient upgrades and pays for itself over a span of 20-30 years. We envision a community where sustainability is intertwined in everything they do, education, construction and every day business and social practices. 

Since then, we’ve started a few other projects, including Little Tree Huggers Preschool, where I am the Executive Director on behalf of TerraStream. Little Tree Huggers (LTH) was founded in 2015, and needed help growing in order to reach more children and have a greater impact on the community as a whole. Their dedication to breaking down barriers to sustainability through education and embracing the diversity of our multicultural world is so inspiring. They also already have in place a multifaceted approach to sustainability, a mission to combat both environmental and social issues through educating the new generations, and a dedication to offering scholarships to low-income families so that their education program is more accessible.

At LTH, the children spend 75% of their time outdoors working with the numerous animals on the property, playing, and learning about different aspects of the environment and sustainability. They develop a love and connection with nature. Creating that empathy with nature creates the transferable empathy to others as well. Because of the immense success they have had so far with the families and the students, they are currently trying to expand so that they are able to reach more children and their families. 

What I’m doing now professionally and what I’m studying so beautifully align, which makes my education, and my future career, even more exciting. I thank God for His work in my life through divine intervention and the incredible opportunities He’s provided me. It feels like right now I am building a family through living my passion, and I feel so blessed to be able to do what I love while helping further our mission of environmental sustainability. 

Especially in a pandemic, all of this hard work has not been easy—but when changes come we can’t expect ourselves to function the same exact way that we did before. We need to be adaptable. Everyone is going through something right now, that is one thing we all, as a world, have in common. Finding ways to hold love and empathy in our hearts for ourselves and others is such good medicine, and such a key, I believe, to success. 

To all past and present Brookers, I would encourage you to pursue your passions. The possibilities are endless—you just need to believe in yourself, your ideas, and that you are capable and strong.

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