I was nine years old when I became an activist, although I didn’t call myself one at the time. Few of us do. I have always loved animals, my favourite field trips were to farms, and my favourite Disney movies weren’t the ones about princesses but the ones about animals. I learned about habitat loss and that so much of it is because of what we—humans—are doing. I joined the eco-team at school and began learning about things that we could do—even at our age—to take better care of the environment. We made posters, shared eco-facts on the morning announcements, implemented recycling programs, and led school-yard clean-ups. We were a small but mighty group of Grade 3 and 4 students inspired by what we were doing.

I was so motivated by what I was doing and learning that I launched my own blog, Call Me Hannah, over the summer between grade 4 and grade 5. I knew that I could reach people beyond my school and neighbourhood if I shared what I was doing online. It didn’t take long before I was getting great feedback on what I was doing. Post by post, comment by comment, I started to realize that it was working. People were using my tips, making small changes to their everyday lives and I knew that I was inspiring change.

I am 16 years old now and in Grade 10. I’ve been at this for as long as I can remember. I have taken on issues like clean water, education, bullying, and mental health. I’ve traveled to Kenya and Costa Rica on service trips. I have traveled to conferences to participate in conversations and actions with other youth who are leading activists for every social justice issue there is. I have become a motivational speaker and author. I am no longer part of a small but mighty team of 10-year-olds—I am part of a global movement of youth changing everything and every part of world.

But I have never forgotten where and how I started.

As you know, the Classroom Energy Diet Challenge is wrapping up this week. I’m impressed by all of the creative and hands-on ways in which teachers and classes have taken on the different challenges with their students. Some have visited recycling plants, others have made elaborate gardens for their school and community, and some have met with their local politicians. It’s so inspiring to see how many engaged students and teachers there are across this country who are committed to learning about energy and jumping into action!

That is why I am so excited to be able to join them and get in on the fun. On the morning of April 24th, I will be headed into a classroom at Cresthaven Public School in Toronto, Ont. Mrs. Gillis’ Grade 3 and 4 students are going to teach me all about carbon footprints from the “How big are your carbon feet?” challenge. I’ve even been promised some arts and crafts! I’m really looking forward to taking this on with them. Be sure to follow my adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

-Hannah Alper