In this Guest Post, high school senior Sammi Dorfan reflects on her participation with Keep America Beautiful’s National Youth Advisory Council for the past two years.

By Sammi Dorfan
Senior, San Diego Jewish Academy

Too often, I am asked how my work “making America beautiful” or “keeping America great” is going. I must then proceed to explain that actually, I am doing neither of these things; rather, I am “Keeping America Beautiful.” Something about the semantical mix-up and the embarrassed expressions that accompany it give me the impression that not everybody understands the monumental role that Keep America Beautiful has played in my life over the past two years. 

Before my first Keep America Beautiful National Conference, all I knew was that I was part of a cohort of like-minded individuals who were completing the same projects as myself in different regions of America. Now, three tree trails, two national conferences, and one wild ride later, I know a whole lot more.

I know that I have found “my people;” people with whom I bond over the crown spread of trees and the futility of plastic straws. I know that I have the power to make change; anything’s possible with big ideas in my head and a trash grabber in my hand. I know who I aspire to be; I met people who dedicated their entire existences to the beautification of the earth. The inspiration I feel is of the mobilizing variety — overwhelming enough that I need time to absorb, but not so overpowering as to interfere with my desire to act.

Keep America Beautiful provided me with the resources to introduce to my school’s campus, which included four new trash cans, seven new recycling bins, and a paper shredder whose contents contribute to our school’s composting pile. More than the physical changes to campus, I worked toward creating behavioral change through videos, signage, and informative games. Off campus, I spent afternoons trudging through canyons, tape measure and GPS in hand and volunteers trailing behind me, seeking beautiful trees whose measurements I could record to calculate their impact on earth. In fact, $303 worth of storm water has been intercepted by my trees!

While my journey as a Youth Advisory Council member might be coming to an end, I know that my Keep America Beautiful journey is not. Nothing that once exerted such profound influence on me can come to such an abrupt finish just because high school career is. In fact, I look forward to seeing what my future holds when it comes to “making America beautiful” and “keeping America great.”

Note: Read more about Sammi’s journey in this 2017 article published in 91230 Magazine.