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Betsy Purner, SCU '10
Posted on Monday, Nov. 9, 2009
Senior Betsy Purner has her finger on the pulse of Santa Clara’s social justice scene. In fact, the San Diego native and environmental science and religious studies double major credits her interest in social issues with an increasing awareness of environmental stewardship and sustainability.
“Environmentalism goes beyond planting trees and recycling – it’s seeing all these things in the environment and thinking about who they’re going to impact.”
Purner returned to Santa Clara this quarter after spending part of her junior year studying at Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador, a program offered to students through the university’s International Programs Office. Students at Casa balance out their weeks with three days of class and two days of community work and volunteering. Purner spent her time in a shantytown community delivering food to residents and listening to their stories.
“[Casa] is very much based on delving into the country you’re studying in.”
Purner brought those stories and her own experiences back to Santa Clara, where she now coordinates Bronco Leaders of Environmental Justice Investigating Truth, or B LEJIT. Originally envisioned as a division of the Santa Clara Community Action Program, Purner registered B LEJIT as a club earlier this year and is currently filling out the organization’s mission.
“This year is about finding what we want our position on campus to be.”
The club’s goal for fall quarter is to educate the campus about what it means to be environmentally just. In the long term, Purner hoped B LEJIT can be an environmental justice advocate for the entire South Bay community.
Her experience in El Salvador left Purner with a few quirky habits, like taking military showers, and also sparked interests in sweat-free clothing and immigration reform.
The soon-to-be graduate is applying to go back to El Salvador to work in the Casa program and sees herself going to law school sometime in the near future. Still, Purner’s dream is to start a farm and immigration resource center in San Diego, where legal services would be provided in exchange for help on the farm.
Written by Christopher Woodhouse '10, Sustainability Intern