A Trinity College sophomore recently participated in the launch of the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Youth Advisory Council (NEYAC) in Washington, D.C.

Zeynep Su Oguzer ’26
Zeynep Su Oguzer ’26 (front, center) with members of Student PIRGs from different states at the EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“Whether I want it to or not, climate change will always be part of my life. It’s something that I can’t close my eyes to,” said Zeynep Su Oguzer ’26, of Bursa, Turkey. “It’s actively affecting my life, my home country, and the U.S, so I’m going to try to do something about it.”

Oguzer was invited to attend the November 16 launch of the EPA’s Youth Advisory Council as the chair of both the Trinity chapter and the state board of CONNPIRG Students, an independent statewide, student-directed, and student-funded organization that works on issues like environmental protection and consumer protection. CONNPIRG is part of the nationwide Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) network on more than 100 campuses that provides the training, professional support, and resources students need to tackle climate change, public health, protecting democracy, feeding the hungry, and more.

EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan hosted the event launching the NEYAC, a cohort of young people tasked with providing advice and recommendations on how to increase EPA’s efforts to address a range of environmental issues as they relate to youth, with an emphasis on communities below 29 years of age. The council plans to address a number of areas, including stronger restrictions on soot, reducing climate pollution from power plants, and protecting water from lead and toxic PFAS pollution.

Zeynep Su Oguzer ’26
Zeynep Su Oguzer ’26 at National Environmental Youth Advisory Council kickoff event.

“My generation and the generations to come will be the most at risk when it comes to climate change and other environmental problems; that’s why I wanted to make sure my voice was heard,” Oguzer said. “It was so inspiring to see the EPA’s efforts to include and listen to young voices when making decisions. I am so excited to see what the National Environmental Youth Advisory Council is going to accomplish.”

Oguzer, who is double-majoring in human rights and psychology at Trinity, met students representing PIRGs from other states. The crowd at the launch event was surprised by a speech from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who Oguzer said was not originally scheduled to appear. Students PIRGs then hosted a reception during which Oguzer and other invited guests met with the new council members.

In addition to the main meeting, Student PIRGs hosted a program with sessions on activism on campuses, Oguzer said. “One session I found very interesting was about intersectionality relating to climate change, where we heard how different oppressed groups can come together to create a huge change, but at the same time can still have their differences,” she said.

Zeynep Su Oguzer ’26
Zeynep Su Oguzer ’26 at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.

The trip encouraged Oguzer to continue her work with Trinity’s CONNPIRG chapter, including a campaign for a campus commitment to renewable energy. Over the years, the campus chapter has experienced a waxing and waning of interest, according to Oguzer. “I’ve worked to make our Trinity chapter more active again, growing the core team by 400 percent and meeting every week,” she said. “We have a great team.”

Oguzer’s motivation to help address climate change is summed up by a conversation she had in the nation’s capital with the political director of Student PIRGs. “They said, ‘I think what’s most important is that when you’re 80 and you look back at what you did with your life, will you be able to say that you did your best and gave all your effort to this cause?’ I think that’s one my biggest goals—being able, when I look back, to say I was part of this huge thing and did my best,” Oguzer said.

To learn more about CONNPIRG, contact Oguzer at [email protected].