Meet Environmental Advocate Isabella Jaramillo

Before this year, there have been close to 100 chapters of the Surfrider Foundation around various high schools and universities – but none at Florida State. This Wednesday, Oct. 30, Surfrider FSU will hold its very first general body meeting planned by its founding members. Who do we have to thank? One of their founding co-presidents. Her name is Isabella Jaramillo, and she is a junior majoring in Environmental Policy (with a minor in French).

Born in Colombia, Isabella Jaramillo, who likes to be called Bella, moved to Miami Beach, Florida at a young age. Her love for Miami oozes out of her, and she credits her residency in Miami for her environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Jaramillo hadn’t always considered herself to be an environmentalist, but Miami changed her. “From growing up in Miami, I was always aware of how privileged I was to live in a beautiful place with beautiful beaches,” she said. “I started to realize how the earth is dying, and Miami is one of the places most at risk. I felt like I needed to act now, or else no one else will.”

That motto, “If I don’t, who will?” is something that Bella constantly reminds herself of. In fact, Jaramillo used the motto to begin and end the speech that she gave at the Climate Strike/Rally on the steps of the old Capitol on Sep. 20, 2019. She spoke to over 400 protestors about youth empowerment and feels that it was her most rewarding experience so far. “I felt like I had my voice heard,” said Jaramillo. “I was showing other young students that I am living, breathing proof that a lack of money and connections doesn’t mean you’re not able to make a change, or do what you want to do.”

Jaramillo has never let her age or her connections stop her, as she exemplifies with her countless positions in environmentally based organizations. For the past two years, Jaramillo has served as the Political Chair for FSU’s Environmental Service Program (ESP). Every week, she keeps members informed on local and national environmentally related politics to encourage advocacy and political participation. Her role in ESP allows her to foster her connection with the earth even more through their camping trips and local service projects every weekend.

Jaramillo has also held multiple internships, including her internship with Sustainable Tallahassee. There, she worked on their Green 4 Tally Project, which allowed her to find alternatives for single-use plastics in local restaurants around Tallahassee. Currently, she is an ambassador for the Florida Climate Pledge started by the Cleo Institute. The pledge asks Florida residents to protect Florida’s air, water and biodiversity by supporting various environmental initiatives and efforts. With this internship, Jaramillo organizes and canvasses with a team to encourage people to sign the Florida Climate Pledge. Often, they give “class wraps” in large lecture halls about the Pledge and its mission. “From my leadership roles, I’ve gained confidence in my public speaking,” said Jaramillo. “I don’t doubt myself; I don’t ask ‘Can I do it? Can I plan it?’ I just do it now.”

In 2018, Jaramillo realized her organizing abilities when she organized the March for Science in Tallahassee. Jaramillo, who attended the March for Science the year prior in Miami, noticed that there wasn’t a march planned in the state’s capital, and took it upon herself to do so. Jaramillo, with a small team of other FSU students, took care of all the event organizing, marketing, getting city permits, recruiting speakers for the event and event security. The march was a success, with a great turnout of local activists and speakers such as Cara Fleischer from Tally 100%, Environmental Science Professor Mike Stukel and City Commissioner Candidate Bob Lotane.

Courtesy: Isabella Jaramillo

 

To gather those speakers, Jaramillo had to be good at networking – really good. With networking being a tough skill to crack for most college students, Jaramillo has some advice: “Try to make a really good first impression,” said Jaramillo. “Never burn any bridges and keep all of your contacts because you’ll never know who you will make contact with or will do you a favor.” By working with environmentalists, they put Jaramillo in contact with other environmentalists, which she appreciates because it allows them to work together, as opposed to working towards the same goal separately.

After coming in contact with Surfrider Florida Regional Manager Holly Parker Curry, Jaramillo decided to bring Surfrider to Florida State. Surfrider FSU is an environmentally based student organization that is focused on ocean conservation with missions such as encouraging sustainability, reducing single-use plastic use and reducing plastic pollution. By bringing Surfrider to the capital of Florida, Jaramillo hopes to make a significant difference. The organization will be politically driven, as the Surfrider Executive Board plans to host workshops to teach their members how to lobby, how to write to their representatives, how to power map and how to track bills in Florida that pertain to them. “I hope to make a bridge between politics and the everyday, average Florida citizen – especially young people,” said Jaramillo. “By teaching people how to contact their representatives and go to their offices to get issues resolves, we can break down the barrier between the government and the constituents. The government works for us.”

Jaramillo, who credits FSU alumna Sylvia Earle as the environmentalist that inspires her, has some advice for others who want to get more involved with environmental advocacy. “Get involved on your school’s campus because there are so many organizations in which you can find your niche,” said Jaramillo. “Find the top three environmental issues that you feel the most passionate about and dive in headfirst.” While Jaramillo has been a vegan for three years, she emphasizes that little changes make a difference. “You don’t have to be 100 percent vegan or even 100 percent activist – subtle changes make an enormous change.” Jaramillo’s final piece of advice? “Vote. It’s the most important thing you can do to help the environment.”

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