D.C. Brought to Life for WNC Students through Generosity of Citizens' Climate Lobby

Jul 3, 2024

Dedicated higher education students Avery Spry and Thomas Shumway came away from a trip to the nation’s capital with a new appreciation of the legislative process.

Concern for their environment prompted the two Western Nevada College students to apply for scholarships to the national climate conference earlier this month. They sought wisdom to become difference-making citizens. They wanted to learn how the federal government works, how citizens can lobby and make use of their First Amendment rights, and practice what they learned to protect their environment.

For Spry, the climate conference was a life changer. It helped determine what she wants to pursue in her professional career.

“This trip showed me all the things that could be possible in this career field and really opened my eyes to all the ways that everyday people can change the world,” Spry said. “I now aspire to work in the legislature and help protect our environment in any way that I can.”

Spry and Shumway were able to attend the conference in Washington, D.C., on scholarships created by the Carson City chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby through WNC Foundation.

“It was a wonderful experience having the students from WNC participate in the Citizens Climate Lobby conference in Washington, D.C.,” said Dr. Tim McFarren of the Carson City Climate Lobby who accompanied the students to D.C. with his wife, Dr. Sandra Koch McFarren. “These students are bright, engaged and motivated to improve the planet that we live on. They did an amazing job on Capitol Hill discussing real solutions to address climate change with our representatives. They were well-prepared and made a positive contribution and impact on our elected officials.”

Conference attendees learned about effective, viable climate solutions nationally and internationally. They also connected with other climate advocates across the political spectrum in all walks of life.

"These types of educational experiences bring out the best in our students and help develop their skills and perspectives that will make them succeed in the future," said WNC President Dr. J. Kyle Dalpe. "We really appreciate Sandra and Tim accompanying them on the trip and the Citizens' Climate Lobby for funding this excellent opportunity for them."

Recent climate changes have seen storms increase in intensity, temperatures rise, droughts lengthen, loss of species, elevated sea levels, oceans warm, glaciers melt, and more.

“I am very concerned about climate change, and knowing more about how we can influence policymakers and make our voices heard is important in shaping the future for ourselves and the coming generations,” said Shumway, who is on track to graduate from WNC with an Associate of Arts degree this summer and is pursuing a career in psychology. “Plus, it was just a super cool opportunity to meet young people who share similar concerns and to visit D.C. for the first time!”

For Shumway, the trip also was informative about the process and policy making of the Legislative Branch.

“Primarily, we learned about some of the current bills and potential acts that may be put forward for the Senate/the House of Representatives in the future, such as the PROVE IT Act and a few other legislation ideas that would be very helpful for increasing the amount of clean energy in the U.S.,” he said. “I also learned a lot about what to focus on and how to try to persuade someone who has a very different idea of what should be done about climate change.”

Spry said the conference actually eased her concerns about climate change.

“I learned a lot from this conference about our climate and all the things that can be done to help it improve. I was already very concerned about our climate, but I think this conference made me less concerned because I now know all the things that I can do to help. For example, I now know that even something as simple as switching to electric appliances can greatly help the environment.”

Spry said that visiting Washington, D.C., was uplifting and brought her closer to the federal government, which seemed like it was in another world to her prior to the trip.

“It was very special to experience our nation’s capital,” said Spry, who is a 2024 graduate of WNC and will continue her education at the University of Nevada, Reno. “Being surrounded by all the buildings and people that you read about in textbooks was a really cool feeling. Getting to stand on the steps of the Capitol Building was very surreal for me. It makes the whole government feel much more real and I feel much more connected to it now. I also really enjoyed getting to experience life in a big city. Traveling on the metro and walking everywhere was a very new experience for me, something that I’ve never gotten to do in Nevada.”

Shumway felt like he fit in with people at the conference and in D.C.

“D.C. was special to me because of the amazing people I met there, the progressive and friendly vibes of the city which were nice, and the history and grandeur of it all which you can see so clearly as you explore the city,” he said, noting that he enjoyed the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the White House, the Capitol, the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The generosity of the Carson City chapter of the Climate Lobby made this memorable educational journey possible for these students — something that isn’t lost on them.

“The Carson City chapter was so incredibly welcoming and were able to help me with anything I needed the whole time I was there,” Spry said. “Going on this trip changed my life in so many ways and I owe it all to the generosity of the Carson City chapter of CCL. This trip clarified what I want to do with my life and how I want to make an impact on our world. Thank you so much, Tim and Sandy, for everything!” 

Added Shumway, This trip meant a lot to me! The conference and lobby day have inspired my optimism about my future and fighting against climate change generally. Being able to visit D.C. and lobby for my and others' futures, while not having to worry about money much, has encouraged me about the climate and helped me connect with others on the issue of climate change and many others. For that, I am very thankful to those who have given me this scholarship and this wonderful opportunity.”

The McFarrens believe that the WNC students represented themselves and the college extremely well and are certainly citizens who care about their environment and climate.

“Joining over 1,000 volunteers in Washington, D.C., is exciting,” Sandy McFarren said. “All of us, working together, motivated to address climate change. The energy our students added was really great. The offices we visited were delighted to have students attending; even offering them summer internships. Avery and Thomas were a real asset!”