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Environmental activism led student to study environmental science

Sometimes a mistake can be a good thing – a chance encounter that pays off in the end. For UF freshman Anna Mavrodieva, accidentally signing up for an environmental science class in high school was something great. She didn’t know it then, but the class started her down a path of environmental activism that would lead her to study environmental science.

Mavrodieva was born in Volgograd, Russia, but has lived in Gainesville for most of her life. She grew up just down the street from UF. She has always loved the outdoors and felt a special connection to Florida’s unique ecosystems. It was that high school science class that sparked her passion for environmental activism.

One day, her friend dared her to sign up for a program that a guest speaker in the class was promoting. She took the dare. That program was Young Leaders for Wild Florida.

“I completely fell in love with environmental activism and the outdoors,” said Mavrodieva of her time with the group.

Becoming an Activist
Members of Young Leaders for Wild Florida at local courthouse

Anna Mavrodieva (second from right) with a speech that she wrote and presented to the Bradford County Commissioners with other members of Young Leaders for Wild Florida. (photo provided)

Young Leaders for Wild Florida is an organization that connects teens in Alachua County to their surrounding environment. The program allows them to collaborate with local environmental leaders and create a space where they can do their part to conserve Florida’s wilderness.

Their motto is “Connect. Collaborate. Conserve.” They are best known for their two-week-long summer program for high school and college students.

“We form connections with the environment and each other by going on fun outdoor adventures,” Mavrodieva explained.

Through Young Leaders for Wild Florida, Mavrodieva and others have the opportunity to help conservationists, meet with politicians, help activists, and collaborate with community leaders. She is extremely active in Gainesville and beyond in making change happen. In 2019, she spoke at two city-wide climate strikes. The opportunities to speak came through Young Leaders for Wild Florida and the Climate Action Gators.

“I really didn’t plan on speaking at these strikes,” Mavrodieva said, “but when I heard that there was an opening available for anyone who wanted to give a speech, I signed up, just to see what it would be like.”

Anna Mavrodieva giving a speech

Anna Mavrodieva speaking at a strike on Sept. 20, 2019. (photo provided)

She also led a workshop about youth environmental activism in Alachua County at the Cinema Verde International Environmental Film Festival. The workshop gave her another opportunity – organizing a poetry reading for the high-school-age event participants.

Mavrodieva with students

Mavrodieva after the workshop with two of the girls who read their poems at the poetry night. (photo provided)

Beyond Gainesville

In 2020, she became one of the translators for Fridays for Future Russia, a chapter of the global youth-led climate activist organizations. Mavrodieva said it all started when she accidentally found the Instagram account of Arshak Makichyan, a main leader of Russia’s climate action movement.

“Through his account, I learned that environmental activism in Russia is extremely dangerous,” said Mavrodieva. “There are many rules in place that prevent people from speaking out for what they believe in, especially if it challenges the status quo.”

She messaged Makichyan and asked how to get involved; they decided that the translation of articles and posts for the Fridays for Future Russia Instagram page was a great place to start. Her job is to find informative social media posts about the climate crises or related topics and translate them from English into Russian to make the information more accessible. They display the translated posts on the official Instagram of Fridays for Future Russia.

In her free time, Mavrodieva enjoys drawing, painting and is an advocate for racial and social justice. She said she believes the intersections of racial and social justice and environmentalism are incredibly important.

“If you care about something, make sure your care is reflected in your actions as well as your words. This doesn’t just apply to environmentalism,” Mavrodieva said. “If you’re passionate about anything, or care about anything, do something about it, don’t just say that you care. It’s the only way to accomplish real change.”