A teenager with a broad worldview

Before this week, I don’t think I’d interviewed anyone quite like Adarsha Shivakumar, who was featured in today’s Trib.

The junior at Oakland’s College Preparatory School started an international organization when he was 13, when he used his spelling bee prize money to buy seeds that convert into biofuel.

I could barely keep pace with his thoughts as he told me about Project Jatropha and its work with poor farmers in southern India, where his parents were born. As soon as I had caught up, he took off again, describing an effort to promote tree-planting at urban elementary schools. 

When I asked what motivated him to tackle major environmental issues at his age, he said he didn’t think his generation had much of a choice. “I like being alive,” he said.

During a conversation with his adviser, science teacher Adrianna Smyth, I asked if she thought Adarsha would come up with the next big idea, or change society fundamentally in some way.

If he doesn’t, she said, “There’s something wrong with the world.”

photo by D. Ross Cameron/Tribune staff

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Debora

    Congratulation Adarsha!

    I look forward to hearing more about the program for trees in urban environments, particularly in the flatlands of Oakland. There are a tremendous number of studies that show increased health, education and pride in community and a decrease in crime correlated to the number of trees in the neighborhood, even block by block.

  • Nextset

    Here is an contrasting article from todays news on what passes for normal at a Chicago High School.