"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."

Alexandra Zissu ’92

When her younger daughter, Lyyli, began to have climate anxiety in the face of climate change, Alexandra Zissu ’92 decided to put her skills as an  environmental journalist to work and write for kids like her daughter. Breaking out from her work as a journalist for adults, Earth Squad, focuses on 50 “environmental crusaders,” how they are working on saving the planet and how kids can join the effort. “It is a very difficult time to watch the destruction of our planet earth. While I was writing the book, I had curated this list of crusaders, but I didn’t want it to only be climate scientists and doctors. There is a wide array, I wanted kids to know you don’t have to be a climate scientist to be involved in saving the planet. You can be anything to be a member of the Earth Squad. The book consists of 50 mini-biographies which highlight how they were inspired as a kid to do this work. Each biography shares fun facts about their work, how to act like them, and a call to action.” When asked why the climate crisis was the focus for this new book, she shared, “The climate crisis feels like the biggest thing that we are dealing with. If I can get the younger generation to buy into fixing it, then we can make change.”

Friends Seminary has influenced Alexandra as she found her way to this work. She shared, “I think that my whole shift to writing about environmental health is rooted in the eight years I spent at Friends. Previously, when I was writing about food and fashion I didn’t feel like my work was connected to the greater good. I was more interested in advocacy journalism.” Alexandra’s first dive into advocacy journalism was a book about her own journey with health while she was pregnant with her daughter. She realized that she could help others lead healthier lifestyles. “I couldn’t square my work with the greater good until I made that shift. I finally felt like I was home with my career. I was starting to create conscious consumers. Asking myself the question, ‘What am I doing that is helping the community at large?’” 

Quaker values have permeated Alexandra’s experience writing Earth Squad, sharing that she needs deep silence in order to write. “It is so interesting, the role of Silence at Friends.” She continued, “There are so many layers of those eight years that have appeared to me at different points of my life. The way Friends has influenced me appears to me at different phases of my life.” 

One major way that Alexandra has been connected to Friends has been through a community of support. During the process of promoting the book, Alexandra’s daughter, the inspiration for the book, was diagnosed with a cancer called Wilm’s Tumor, a variety of kidney tumor. Friend’s friends that Alexandra had not spoken to regularly in years have become forces of support and stability in her life as she takes on this new challenge. We hope you will join us in holding her family and her daughter, Lyyli, in the Light. 

As Alexandra looks to the future she shares, “I would really like to invite kids, who do not feel connected to science, to get involved in climate activism. It will take all of us, there is no way around it, we all live here. I would love to go and talk to as many school groups as possible.”

To read more about her book, click here
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Friends Seminary — the oldest continuously operated, coeducational school in NYC — serves college-bound day students in Kindergarten-Grade 12.
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