Alumni Spotlight: Nathaniel Cook

Hello! My name is Nathaniel Cook, and I participated in Summer of Solutions in 2009.  I became involved in SoS after having a discussion with Summer of Solutions leaders at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Forum at St. Olaf College.  I left the conversation thinking that SoS would be an informative experience that would allow me to grow as a young, student leader while making real, substantive change in how we, as a society, approach environmental sustainability. The experience proved to exceed all of my expectations.

Through SoS, I developed the skills necessary to talk about sustainability-related issues with people from all walks of life, and gained the knowledge and confidence necessary to do so. Summer of Solutions also gave me a new, better-informed perspective on environmental and social issues that helped formulate my values. My favorite memory is working alongside students who exemplified what it meant to be well informed, proactive, and inspiring young leaders.  Their mentorship empowered me to meet with community leaders and develop plans for collaboration.  I was so inspired by my experience that when I returned to my college campus as a sophomore in the fall, I helped lead an environmental movement that changed the campus’ ethos and physical operations. By engaging our peers, we helped start the campus’ first student-led organic garden, an “eco-house” for student living, improved campus operations, and made sustainability one of the core focuses of the college and its curriculum.

1 I know that without gaining the skills and knowledge provided to me by SoS, I would not have had so many other amazing experiences and relationships throughout the last 4 years. Summer of Solutions was probably the most influential experience that I have ever had, and it has shaped me, my experiences, and my relationships ever since. It showed me that sustainability is a concept that reaches into every aspect of our lives, and that I don’t have to choose a career at the expense of my sustainability-related values.  It showed me that I could incorporate those values into my career, my relationships, and every other part of my life.   2

I am currently attending Marquette University School of Dentistry in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Although I have been passionate about environmental sustainability for most of my life, I planned to pursue a career in dentistry long before starting college. When I got involved in SoS in 2009, I knew that I wanted to become a dentist, but I also knew that my career plans did not have to exclude becoming a more informed, confident, and compassionate person, qualities that SoS helped me to develop. After helping make significant changes at my undergraduate college, I have continued to use what I learned as a participant in the student sustainability organization at the dental school I attend, and I am organizing opportunities for dental students to purchase sustainability produced food from Milwaukee’s famous urban farm, Growing Power. I plan to continue to find ways for the dental school and the dental profession as a whole to reduce its ecological footprint, and I will continue advocating for environmental and social sustainability within my community.

I would highly, highly recommend applying to participate in Summer of Solutions. It was a life-changing experience for me, and consequently influenced nearly all of my relationships since. It helped elicit my potential as a leader and gave me skills and knowledge that I put to use on a daily basis. Even though I knew going in that I would not make a career in the sustainability field directly, SoS truly was the greatest life experience I have ever had.

– Nathaniel Cook

Calling all Solutionaries!  The National Participant Application for all Summer of Solutions programs is now open!

During the Summer of Solutions, you will receive training in community organizing and sustainable community development techniques. You will use these skills to demonstrate the promise of energy efficiency, community-based energy, green industry, local food production, and/or smart design as described in the locations you choose. Beyond the concrete skills you learn, Summer of Solutions will be a really fun community-based experience. It is a great chance to grow with, learn from, and work with other incredible young people and community leaders who are building a better future.

Not sure if you should apply?  Follow our new blog series, Alumni Spotlights, to hear from past Summer of Solutions participants about how their experience changed their life and prepared them for a life of solutionary work!

Now accepting participant applications: Arleta, CA; Chicago, IL; Hartford, CT; Iowa City, IA; Ithaca, NY; Johnson City, TN; Lexington, KY; Little Rock, AR; Middleton, WI; Oakland, CA; Raleigh, NC; Southern West Virginia; Twin Cities, MN; and Washington, DC!

Applications for the priority round are due on 3/3/2013 and applications for the final round are due on 4/14/2013. Some programs may keep their local applications open beyond 4/14, but there is no guarantee that any specific program will do so.

Find more details and the online application here!

One thought on “Alumni Spotlight: Nathaniel Cook

  1. Pingback: Inspiration to Join Summer of Solutions 2013 by April 14th! | Solutionaries

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