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Jane Fonda paid for Boise students’ climate change class. She tuned in for final projects

Idaho

Actress and climate activist Jane Fonda paid for several high schoolers from Boise to take a Boise State University class on climate change. Fonda met with the students over a Zoom video call to watch their class presentations. | BY SARAH A. MILLER

BOISE (Idaho Statesman) – Sitting around a long table in a classroom at Boise State University, nine Boise High School students excitedly waited for their last guest via Zoom.

Within minutes, Jane Fonda — Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress, well-known activist and member of a legendary Hollywood family — showed up on the large screen at the front of the classroom, a big smile on her face.

“I’m just so proud of you. Look at you all. … I’m just thrilled,” she told the students as she watched a video from a climate strike that they held to call for Idaho schools to teach climate change in classrooms.

RELATED | Jane Fonda to pay for Idaho high school students’ BSU climate change class

The moment was months in the making. Over the summer, Shiva Rajbhandari, a Boise High junior, reached out to Fonda to see whether she would help pay for some students to take a class at Boise State on climate change. He said he didn’t expect a response.

But a few weeks after he sent the letter, he picked up his phone to hear Fonda introduce herself. She agreed to pay for Rajbhandari and eight of his classmates to take the class.

So last week, the students finally got to meet Fonda virtually — and thank her for her donation of nearly $9,000 — when she tuned in to watch them present their final projects for the class and see the results of her investment.

After each presentation, Fonda offered comments on the issue the student focused on, oftentimes recommending a book or documentary. She commended the high school students for all of their work — and their commitment to taking action.

“I’m blown away. I’m just blown away,” Fonda told the class. “It’s really important.”

STUDENTS PROPOSED CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS IN FINAL PROJECTS

Students in Jen Pierce’s class at Boise State were assigned a project that required them to identify a climate problem and a possible solution. The basic project was to create a poster, Pierce said.

Many of the high school students who were in the class courtesy of Fonda took it a step further.

Tyson Russell collected climate stories from his classmates and others, and created an interactive exhibit that will be displayed at Boise State.

“There’s a lot of people that don’t really care about climate change,” Russell said during the presentation. “A lot of research has shown that stories are a good way to make people care. This is because climate change feels far removed from the lives of most people and stories can put it into context and make it feel more real.”

After the presentation, Fonda offered to send Russell the names of people whose stories he could add.

“He’s on totally the right track,” she said. “Telling stories that can break through the big words and the ideologies and everything, and can relate to people where they are, that’s the way to go.”

Lizzy Duke-Moe, a Boise High senior, presented a project on the decline of Northwest salmon and the affect on the Nimiipuu people. At the beginning of her presentation, she showed a “salmon app” that asked people to answer a few simple questions to find out what type of salmon they were. Duke-Moe asked Fonda how tall she was and whether she wore more red or green. Fonda was a sockeye (red) salmon.

“That’s a good salmon to get, for sure,” Duke-Moe said.

Other students presented projects on how the beef industry can affect climate change and how social media can be used to spread awareness on climate issues. One student’s project involved the effect of wildfires on undocumented workers, and part of the solution was making information on climate-related disasters available in Spanish.

‘AMAZING AND SMART AND INVENTIVE’

Pierce said it was great to see high school students — she referred to them as “Jane’s students” — so engaged and motivated in her class.

“They’re the next leaders of our country and our planet,” she told the Idaho Statesman.

Speaking to Fonda, she added: “The return on your investment has been amazing.”

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Boise High students meet with actress and activist Jane Fonda on a Zoom call. | Becca Savransky BSAVRANSKY@IDAHOSTATESMAN.COM

After the presentations, Fonda broke down in tears, telling the students how proud she was to see all the work they had done.

“I am so moved and so impressed. This has gone way beyond what I ever thought,” she told the students. “… You are stellar, you are all amazing and smart and inventive.”

Added Fonda, whose activism over the years has included the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, Native American issues and the environment: “I hope it’s not the last time I see all of you.”

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