Composed and soft-spoken, Keira Scott exudes a gentle demeanor with her kind eyes and wide smile. She is easy to talk to, engaging, and genuine. Yet she is anything but timid — her calm exterior hides a powerful internal motivation to make a difference in the world. She has successfully activated local youth and advocated for change within our community. When I sat down with her, it was apparent that she’s highly knowledgeable about climate policy change and action.
Born and raised in Truckee, Keira, 18, is now a Truckee High School senior and an avid cross-country skier and runner. She feels at home in the forest and near lakes and rivers. Her drive to protect them is what fuels her advocacy for the environment. She applauds her parents’ choice to raise her and her sister here; her eyes light up when she talks about it and her smile broadens. “Yay, parents!” she said with evident appreciation.
Keira’s initial exposure to environmental activism happened in seventh grade at Sierra Expeditionary Learning School. She was introduced to Matt Tucker, a member of the North Tahoe Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) chapter, as part of a mentor project led by her teacher Katie Santos. Inspired by her time working with Matt and by Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future, a youth-led climate strike movement, she helped organize a Truckee climate strike in 2019.
Today, Keira is the leader of the Tahoe Youth Action Team (TYAT), a local branch of the nationwide nonprofit CCL, which emphasizes grassroots advocacy, urging citizens to support climate policies as solutions to the ongoing climate crisis. Keira took on leadership responsibilities in 2022 when fellow student Laurel Anderson, who started TYAT, found herself swamped with college applications. Once in the leadership role, Keira began to seek ways to engage additional youth, and so she submitted the necessary paperwork to make TYAT an official club at Truckee High earlier this school year.
“I really wanted to see more being done with this group because I think it’s a great group of kids who have the potential to have a lot of influence,” she said.
Under Keira’s leadership, TYAT has been pushing for a climate resolution within the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District (TTUSD). Realizing the significant contributions of schools to greenhouse gas emissions, TYAT aims to make them more energy efficient. “We identified a need for more climate action in our school district and sort of piggybacked off of this growing movement of students all over the country,” she said.
Adapting a template from the New Buildings Institute based in Portland, Oregon, the students drafted the resolution in January 2023, followed by a proposal to the school board in April. When asked about it, Keira reached into her backpack. “I actually have one right here that you can have,” she said as she handed me the six-page document titled The Resolution to Establish Goals for Energy Efficiency, Clean Energy and Carbon Neutrality.
Keira and her peers have been in active discussions with various TTUSD departments, including district staff, the directors of transportation, food services, facilities, and more, to gain a better understanding of their comfort levels and the financial implications of adopting the resolution.
“We basically went over what we want to see happen with the district, where they are now, and how comfortable they feel with adopting it,” Kiera said. “It’s hard because our resolution has a lot of really concrete goals and metrics we want the school district to hit. And so it’s the kind of thing that’s hard to pass without looking into what the financial implications would be. They need to do some baseline auditing.”
A significant breakthrough for TYAT was the school district’s recent decision to create a position for a joint construction manager and sustainability coordinator, marking a step toward a more sustainable approach in school construction. The resolution requests that this role be filled by December 2023.
In March 2023, Keira created a petition on change.org to support the TTUSD climate resolution. It’s a little over halfway to its goal of obtaining 1,000 signatures.
This June, Keira received a scholarship from California CCL to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend the CCL National Conference and lobby Congress, urging them to support carbon pricing and clean energy permitting reform. CCL provided extensive training to prepare her for the lobby meetings.
Keira shared that she was most impacted by the breakout presentation she gave at the conference on youth and climate advocacy alongside another TYAT member. “It was cool because a lot of the people who went to that breakout session were youth, and so it was part inspirational and part educational,” she said. “It was almost like a guide to how they can do a similar thing in their school districts.”
After the three-day conference, she lobbied Republican congresspeople, including Rep. Tom McClintock and Rep. Kevin Kiley, prompting constructive discussions and understanding of the lawmakers’ perspectives. She was impressed by the meeting with Kiley, saying that it was a “two-way conversation. It was, ‘How can I get involved? Where can I learn more about this?’ It felt very open and constructive.”
MAKING AN IMPACT LOCALLY AND BEYOND
Keira is also an active member of the Truckee High School’s Envirolution Club, guided by Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships. Club participants’ activism has contributed to policy change in Truckee regarding plastic straws and bags and a potential plastic water bottle ban. Keira and other students attend town council meetings to ensure their voices are heard.
She is also a member of Truckee High’s POWER (People Organized for Women’s Empowerment and Respect) Club, a group of students dedicated to women’s rights. The students provide free feminine hygiene products in girls restrooms and are currently seeking to work with the Days for Girls program to sew and donate reusable feminine products to underprivileged people all over the world, “anywhere from rural Africa to South America,” said Keira.
Her immediate future sees TYAT pushing for its school resolution. She’s also working with her peers to organize a hike in Martis Valley with Rep. Kiley to offer him a local perspective.
“We just want to talk to him about why this matters to us. It’s hard because our district is so diverse — it’s everything from Mammoth and Inyo County to Rocklin and Truckee. There are a lot of different interests.”
Engaging with politicians, youth, and other organizations that are creating positive waves is where Keira is making the most difference. Look out for her next endeavor — working with the local branch of Elders Climate Action, a group of senior climate activists, to start a voter registration drive for students.
“In California, you can register to vote if you’re 16. You can’t actually vote until you’re 18, but you can pre-register to vote, and then they’ll send you a ballot when it comes time.”
Keira’s ambitions extend past high school graduation. She’s toying with the idea of a college degree in environmental science with a potential minor in public policy. With plans to engage in college environmental groups and continue her association with CCL chapters embedded in colleges, Keira’s dedication to making the world a better place is her beacon.