SAMOHI — Popular children’s television channel Nickelodeon is following its viewers through high school — literally.
A camera crew from Nickelodeon is following Santa Monica High School senior and Team Marine captain Megan Kilroy today as she goes about her day at school, rallying students and teachers to participate in Team Marine’s “Ban the Bag March” after school. A student-run environmentalist group, Team Marine does many such community events and services, drawing attention to the dangers of using plastic bags.
Earlier this summer, Nickelodeon contacted marine biology teacher and Team Marine coach Benjamin Kay through Heal the Bay in hopes of reaching students who are actively involved in saving and protecting the environment. In August, after several calls and a meeting, the cable network chose Kilroy for their special about teens making a difference.
“They called me up and wanted to know a little bit about me, so I told them about myself,” Kilroy said. “They pretty much asked me about what I do. They were just trying to get a feel of what kind of community service I do, what’s your favorite movie, who’s your favorite celebrity. When they asked me what my favorite TV show is, I said ‘Hey Arnold.’”
“Hey Arnold” was a popular cartoon on Nickelodeon.
Cameras will follow her from class to class, and will continue to film Team Marine and the Heal the Bay Surfrider Club, led by senior Celina Stilphen, as they march through Santa Monica’s streets.
“They chose a whole bunch of teams to feature,” Kilroy said. “They’re also going to be interviewing other members of Heal the Bay Surfrider Club.”
Team Marine has previously marched four times in an attempt to let City Hall know that people are demanding the elimination of plastic bags.
“Unfortunately it’s been a longer process than we have hoped for,” said Kirsten James, water quality director at Heal the Bay. “Basically, a while ago, city staff brought forward a draft ordinance to the City Council [to ban plastic bag use]. A lot of stakeholders went to the meeting and were excited and thought it would be passed at that time.”
Before anything happened, however, the movement came to a halt.
“The city voted to ban single use plastic bags from all retail stores in Santa Monica,” Kay said. “Literally pretty much the day before, they got a lawsuit threat from the plastic bag industry.”
City Hall halted the process temporarily, as other cities — including Manhattan Beach — have been sued for the same reasons, James said. City Hall has since been working on a master environmental assessment — an analysis proving plastic bags’ adverse effect on the environment. Such a review protects the city, and other cities facing these issues in the future, from being sued.
“Basically they threatened to do the same thing to the city of Santa Monica,” James said. “The city thought it was prudent to go back and make sure they had done appropriate environmental analysis. We’re waiting for the city do this.”
She hopes the review will be completed by the end of this year.
“The public needs to keep coming to City Council and express that they want this,” Kay said. “It’s just to show the city that its members, the community and mainly the youth who are going to be driving the community want a sustainable community.”
Though the students usually march to the Third Street Promenade, the route will be a bit more impromptu this time due to Nickelodeon’s filming permit limitations. At 3:15 p.m., students will meet at Samohi in room S107 and will march around Santa Monica from 4 p.m. — 6 p.m.
“It’s going to be really interesting,” Kilroy said. “I’m really excited, kind of nervous. I have done a lot of public speaking; I do get tongue-tied sometimes.”
Nickelodeon will also film students testing water from the bay and the coastal clean up hosted by Heal the Bay on Saturday, Sept. 19 from 9 a.m. to noon.
“It’s a very exciting opportunity for Megan and her peers who have been working very hard on a lot of eco projects,” Kay said. “Megan is one dynamic person who really has a way of interacting with people, that people have a way of gravitating toward Megan. She has a way of inspiring people … When there’s a task to be done, she always steps up.”
Yet Kilroy has no easy task of balancing hours of Team Marine duties with the usual senior year load, complete with two Advanced Placement classes, which are college level courses
“I don’t know how I find the time; I’m either doing Team Marine stuff or homework, and it’s kind of ridiculous,” Kilroy said. “Team Marine is incredibly time consuming. We also go to conferences and do lesson plans and teach at elementary schools.”
However, she has no plans to slow down and is eager to do all she can for her cause.
“The message we’re trying to convey,” Kilroy said, “is that no matter who you are, you can make a difference, and the youth really are the voice of the environmental movement. And that if you go out and show others that you care, they will also be inspired to join you and help save the planet.”