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Elena Bouldin


Berkeley HS, CA
Attending Yale University
Founder One Blue Earth

Community service has been key to my development as an individual and has helped me integrate in my local community, since I moved to the United States three-and-a-half years ago. Since 9th grade, I have  participated actively in my school’s volunteer club. From 10th grade, I have led it as Co-President. Working at our school’s holiday meals, I have learned about the turns and twists of life by talking to people who are unsheltered. Tutoring math, I have learned to explain concepts in different ways depending on the student. Through beach cleanups, I have experienced group pride. I

have found purpose in our fundraisers for women and children shelters as I learned about who they serve and how they operate. I have grown emotionally while working with the Prisoners Literature Project answering letters, sending out books, and learning about the prison system, and I have witnessed the pervasive precariousness of families in the Bay Area by preparing grocery bags at our local food pantry. These service projects have made me more aware of the struggles of others, and intensified my desire to make a difference. In leading our club’s weekly meetings and organizing service events, I’ve learned that I enjoy and am good at managing and inspiring a team to work together toward a focused goal.

Last fall, after several years of climate marches and fundraisers, and energized by online courses about climate change and by my learning in AP Environmental Science, I founded the nonprofit One Blue Earth ( to bridge research and action by educating youth about current scientific and grass-roots efforts to reverse climate change. OBE’s initial project was a fundraiser in partnership with Kiss the Ground to promote soil restoration and regenerative agriculture. Through OBE, I have been able to connect with a creative and committed community of innovators who are making a difference in restoring the world. On the OBE website, I am currently publishing Perspectives, a series of conversations with academics, ecopreneurs, and activists about their work.

One of the people I had the fortune of meeting through my OBE activities is conservation biologist Professor Rodolfo Dirzo of Stanford University. We exchanged several emails, and I watched the video series “Con-ciencia y Diversión” he created in Spanish upon request from the Mexican Embassy. We talked about how important it is to make science information available in Spanish to help inform underserved communities about cutting-edge research. Encouraged by Professor Dirzo, I have been translating the Perspective interviews on the OBE website into Spanish. My hope is to encourage as many young people as possible to choose careers in fields that will help us meet the environmental crisis, which is the greatest challenge facing our generation.

Also through OBE, I met Stanford epidemiologist Dr. Desiree LaBeaud. After several engaging conversations with her, she invited me to collaborate on her new nonprofit, the Health and Environmental Research Institute—Kenya (HERI), which works to improve environmental conditions and public health in Kenya. This educational opportunity combines my passions for the environment and community service, and has expanded my global awareness and impact. HERI combats plastic pollution and infectious diseases transmitted by the aedes aegypti mosquito, including Zika, yellow fever, and dengue. Working with HERI has deepened my understanding of environmental factors contributing to vector-borne diseases. I have also gained real-world experience and developed practical skills that will be useful in future nonprofit work. I have been actively involved in securing HERI’s nonprofit legal status, and in developing our theory of change model, branding guide, social media strategy and implementation, partnership development, and event planning and execution.

My various volunteering experiences, each in their own way, have taught me a fundamental lesson: small efforts undertaken with passion and in collaboration with others can create something bigger, and more beautiful and powerful than our individual selves. Helping others is part of who I am. I look forward to continuing my community service activities when I begin college next Fall.

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