Photos by Donella Lalas
The IDEA Changemaker Fellows are Western students who are committed to making a change in the world. Each year, 14 Western students receive this honor in recognition of their efforts to better their community. They work to support and implement change, starting in Bellingham and beyond.
Interviews and photos by Donella Lalas.
Pauline Elevazo is a cultural anthropology major with a political science minor and was born in the Philippines. She is not only working on one project, but is juggling two during her last year at Western.
“I’m working on raising awareness for Filipinx disaster-induced diaspora as well as empowering Filipinx people to be activists,” Elevazo said. “I am [also] trying to use whatever tools I can get to help get the College of Ethnic Studies rolling.”
She hopes to get enough funding to give back to her community and be able to provide a space for people within her community to empower them, she said.
“My projects are so integral to my identity and to my experiences,” Elevazo said.
Several people inspired Elevazo to begin her projects, one of them being her mom. Other inspiration came from recently graduated student Erick Yanzon, her professor from her first Filipinx class Michael Casteñeda and Education and Social Justice administrative assistant Elaine Mehary.
Her favorite part of it all is having the space to implement her projects and being around other passionate people with driven goals, she said.
When she’s not at school, work, clubs or working on her project Elevazo enjoys reading and playing Sims at home.
Gwen Larned is a business and sustainability major with a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation and will be graduating at the end of fall quarter.
Larned is a part of the zero waste movement and has been the Zero Waste Coordinator on campus for the past four years.
“I am primarily passionate about connecting people with the deeper value in things,” Larned said. “I think that’s one of the things that the zero waste movement is doing really well is helping people reconnect with the value of things and their purchasing power.”
Her goal by the end of the quarter is to start an independent consulting firm to help individuals and companies create deeper value by reducing waste, she said.
“I really wanted to make sure that it was something that I could continue after graduating and I think that consulting is a really great opportunity,” Larned said.
She believes businesses should have a responsibility to do something to improve the community.
“That was my inspiration to come to Western,” Larned said. “To study business and sustainability to see how businesses could play a role as a stakeholder in creating a better world.”
There’s not one way to approach solving waste, she said. You can approach it from the producers' side and help businesses redesign packaging so it won’t go to a landfill,or you could work to help people learn how to recycle and compost, or you could be anywhere in between.
Larned’s favorite part of being in the fellowship is connecting with people, she said.
“I love the community of the Fellows because they’re all really dedicated, hard-working people and they’re all really passionate about something super specific,” Larned said. “Although a lot of us have overlaps in certain areas, we all have so much to learn from each other as well and a lot of resources to share with each other.”
When Larned isn’t doing schoolwork or working on her project, she enjoys cooking, making kombucha and learning how to be self-sufficient.*Correction: There are 14 changemakers, not eight.