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Ed. Magazine

Eco Ed Justice

Alexia Leclercq, Ed.M.’23, is here for the collective good
Alexia LeClercq
Alexia LeClercq
Photo: Jonathan Kozowyk

When Alexia Leclercq was little, living in Taiwan during the summers, she remembers being yelled at for playing outside in the acid rain. Later, after her family moved to Singapore, she remembers the city shutting down, sometimes for weeks, because of poor air quality.

At an early age, she realized that pollution and “place” were having a big effect on her health and how she was growing up — and this set off her interest in becoming a social and environmental activist.

“For a lot of people, climate change can feel like an intangible issue, however, seeing the pollution and health consequences and experiencing hurricanes,” she says, “made climate justice and environmental justice a personal and pressing issue.”

It also made clear something that has since been the foundation for all her activism: connection matters.

“Collectivist culture and connection to community and land are so deeply important in creating a just and sustainable world,” she says.

It’s why she brought recycling bins to her middle school and why she started translating documents for asylum seekers. It’s why she co-founded two nonprofits: the Colorado River Conservancy, a project of PODER (People Organized in Defense of Earth and Her Resources), and Start:Empowerment, designed to better connect climate education and action. It’s why she pushed to bring clean water to East Austin, Texas, where her family later moved, and have toxic tank farms relocated away from residential neighborhoods. Last year, the World Wildlife Foundation awarded her their 2022 Conservation Leadership Award, an award that celebrates the accomplishments of young leaders who are pushing the needle for environmental conservation. That same year, she co-authored a piece in Teen Vogue about why we can’t "influence” our way out of the climate crisis and need more grassroots organizing.

“I grew up with the belief that we aren’t separate, so every person, animal, or plant you encounter, you treat with the deepest respect. This is in sharp opposition to the colonial-capitalist society we currently live in.”

“I grew up with the belief that we aren’t separate, so every person, animal, or plant you encounter, you treat with the deepest respect. This is in sharp opposition to the colonial-capitalist society we currently live in,” she says. This belief “was really ingrained with storytelling throughout my childhood. I remember my mom telling me about the importance of water and tree spirits. I also grew up with a very collectivist mindset and framework.”

Leclercq brought this collective good focus with her to Appian Way, where she was enrolled this past year in the Educational Leadership, Organizations, and Entrepreneurship master’s program and in the Identity, Power, and Justice in Education Concentration.

“As a longtime social-environmental justice organizer, I’ve realized the crucial role that political education plays in building and sustaining movements,” she says, explaining her reasons for coming to Harvard. “I seek to developmy educational leadership skills while learning new methods of implementing liberatory pedagogy. In particular, I’m interested in understanding ways of incorporating Asian and Indigenous ecological knowledge in curricula and researching the relationship between schools, environmental injustices, the fossil fuel industry, and BIPOC students’ learning experiences.”

And despite a full graduate student workload, Leclercq has managed to stay active, including organizing with Harvard Divest to protest fossil fuel recruitment and research on campus. She’s a member of the university’s cross-grad school Climate Leaders Program and has been active in the HGSE Climate Justice Club, where she helped write op-eds. At the Alumni of Color Conference this past spring, she won the Kolajo Paul Afolabi Award for her commitment to educational justice.

As a student, she has also found a way to connect back to “place” and to her childhood.

“I work as a research assistant at Harvard’s Haber Lab at the Chan School of Public Health, which is focused on asthma research,” Leclercq explains. “I’m helping with a research project on the connection between asthma emergency department visits and bad housing conditions and looking at policy implications. I had asthma as a kid and care deeply about the intersection of public health, environmental justice, and housing.”

Ed. Magazine

The magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education

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