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Activist Spotlight: Alexandria Alejo with the CSU Channel Islands Student Club

Q: What is your current role with the Surfrider Foundation?

I am the CSU Channel Islands Surfrider Foundation Club President.

Q: Why and when did you get involved with the Surfrider Foundation?

I got involved with Surfrider at CSUCI in the Fall of 2021. As a surfer, I feel that it is my responsibility to help keep our beaches clean, healthy and equitable. Once I learned about Surfrider, I knew it was something I wanted to be involved in, and that it was a way I could make a difference, even if it’s just in my own community. I’ve always felt that Surfrider’s mission aligned with me and what I am passionate about.

Q: What are some environmental issues that are affecting your local community?

Living in Southern California, I have seen a plethora of environmental issues impact my local community, including sea level rise, increased fires and drought. Growing up visiting beaches in LA and Ventura County, I have watched as our coastlines disappear due to rising sea levels and as friends houses burn during devastating fire events. I’ve chosen to study Environmental Science locally at Channel Islands because this area is near and dear to my heart and I hope to work within these communities to better our situation.

Q: What Surfrider projects have you worked on?

At CSUCI, I have worked on a few small projects through Surfrider. This Spring 2022 semester, we continued our monthly Campus Cleanups, where our small group of volunteers picked up over 150 lbs. of trash from around our campus this semester alone. We also continued biweekly gardening days in our Student Garden, which was certified as Ocean Friendly the previous semester. In addition, I have volunteered with the Ventura County Chapter at their California Street Cleanups, as well as their Rincon Parkway Cleanups.

Q: Are there any specific project(s) that you have worked on which benefited your community? If so, can you tell us about that?

This semester, I helped plan an Earth Day Festival with other sustainability clubs on my campus. There were quite a few sustainability events we had going on throughout the evening, including a tree planting seminar in our Student Garden, pot painting and seed planting, a clothing swap, a sustainability presentation, and a film viewing. We had an astounding turnout and I feel that it really helped get the word out about sustainability and conservation in a fun way. Our campus was really affected by the pandemic and we have had a hard time providing students with events due to restrictions. I feel that this event gave back to our community of students at CSUCI and thanked them for all the hard work they had put in throughout the semester with Surfrider.

During COVID-19, a lot of trash had accumulated on our campus and our Student Garden needed a lot of restoration work. I helped plan and coordinate our Gardening Days and Campus Cleanups, which have helped in restoring our campus and garden for students to enjoy. These events also gave students the opportunity to engage in hands-on sustainability work while giving them a sense of community on campus with like-minded, ocean-loving individuals.

Q: What has been the highlight of your Surfrider experience (i.e., campaign, program, victory)?

I think for me, I have loved rallying other ocean advocates to do good, big or small. We have a really small campus community and it can sometimes be hard to feel like we are making an impact. The dedication from our club members has been so awesome to see. Being able to get my peers excited about picking up trash has been quite a task but the people it has brought in have been nothing short of inspiring. Being able to educate others about the issues facing our oceans and get them involved in Surfrider has been so fulfilling.

Q: Do you have any personal experiences or campaigns/issues that you're passionate about where the social justice and environmental movements have intersected? If so, can you tell us about them?

My campus is located in Camarillo, which neighbors the city of Oxnard. I have learned so much about the issues facing the Oxnard community and their beaches, especially the issues of coastal equity and the building of harmful and toxic industrial sites. Oxnard is a community of primarily Hispanic people, and it is clear that this is not just an environmental issue, but a social justice issue as well. There is a major difference between the city of Oxnard and neighboring cities like Ventura, and this is clearly an issue of discrimination. The community of Oxnard deserves access to clean, equitable beaches just as much as neighboring communities do.

Q: What can Surfrider do (or continue doing) to foster an inclusive and welcoming experience? Do you have any examples from your experience where this is successfully happening? 

I think that Surfrider has put a clear effort and emphasis on working diversity, equity, and inclusion into their mission over the past couple of years, and there is great headway being made. However, I do think there is more work to be done. I think that the most important step is listening and learning from diverse communities, and giving them the space to educate and lead us in the right direction. A good example of this was at the Surfrider California Conference, where members of the BIPOC surf group Color the Water gave an eye-opening and honest perspective on what its like to be a person of color in the water during their Q&A.

Q: What is the most important thing you tell others about Surfrider?

The most important thing I tell others about Surfrider is that getting involved is an authentic and rewarding way to make a difference.

Q: Why is being a part of the Surfrider ocean conservation community important to you?

In my experience, it can be easy to feel helpless with all of the issues facing our environment, and specifically the ocean, today. It’s important for me to be apart of the Surfrider ocean conservation community because it has become an avenue where I know I can make a difference, big or small, in protecting the thing that means the absolute most to me—the ocean.