BOISE, Idaho — This story originally appeared in the Idaho Press.
Famed actor and climate activist Jane Fonda paid for nine high school students from Boise to take a university class on environmental studies this fall. On Monday, Fonda shared their stories and the climate change projects they worked on this semester.
This summer Boise High School student Shiva Rajbhandari sent a letter to Fonda requesting that Fonda fund a college course for one of his classmates, Idaho EdNews reported. There is no high school course on climate change. To Rajbhandari's surprise, Fonda responded, and she offered to fund not just one but nine students to take a class at Boise State University this semester.
Fonda recalled in a blog post this week, "While it was pricy [sic] for high school students it was reasonable for me so I called Shiva and told him I would cover the tuition because I admired his guts and entrepreneurial spirit but that in exchange, I wanted all the students to commit to taking some sort of action around this issue."
Fonda, who has been arrested several times for participating in climate change protests, suggested the students pressure elected officials to oppose government subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.
The students wrote letters, many addressed to Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, describing how climate change has impacted their lives.
One letter, signed by Nina, explains how "devastating" drought is affecting family farms and ranches.
"As climate change advances, food scarcity, job scarcity, malnourished animals, and depleting security in the food industry all become increasingly daunting threats," the letter said. "When you consider your position as congressman and the power that you have to enact change, remember the impact that climate change has on us all. My family is depending on you. Our future is in your hands."
Last week, Fonda virtually attended a meeting with the students where they shared climate change projects they created this semester. One project explored why Snake River dams should be removed to save endangered salmon — a proposal Simpson is also pushing. Another project was about sustainable ranching.
"I was really blown away by what they are doing and where my simply agreeing to cover their class cost has led," Fonda wrote. "These are smart, very impressive students and now it’s clear: They’re becoming activists!! They’re putting their concerns into action."
The students also organized a protest outside Gov. Brad Little's office, demanding that climate studies be included in Idaho's public school curriculum. And this spring they're organizing a climate fair.
"I am really jazzed by these young people," Fonda wrote. "They give me hope."
To read Fonda's blog post and the students' climate stories, visit janefonda.com/2021/12/boise-students-rock-my-boat.
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