Lauren Mickelson didn’t know that her nickname, Lulu, is slang for a remarkable person, object or idea. But the word describes her high school achievements perfectly.
As a freshman recruit to Santa Monica High School’s (Samohi) Solar Alliance, she helped the club fulfill its mission of getting solar-thermal panels for the school’s swimming pool, saving more than $26,000 annually and drastically reducing the school’s carbon footprint. Since becoming the club’s president in her sophomore year, she has transformed it into a multifaceted student-run nonprofit that has led a local green coup.
The inaugural “Bike It Day,” a campaign she conceived to encourage students to walk, bike or bus to school, drew a meager 80 students out of 3,200. Three years later, “Bike It Day” is a tri-annual, district-wide event and a factor in the city’s efforts to raise close to $1 million for bike safety improvements around the school’s campus.
“Everyone at Samohi raves about it now,” said Mickelson, who was nationally recognized for her environmental activism with an All American High School Service Team Award. “It’s been a really profound accomplishment for me to see that idea turned into something way beyond me.”
Mickelson is also editor of the special reports section of Samohi’s school paper, where she led campus-wide discussions on thorny student issues. She interviewed teenage heartthrob Zac Efron and best-selling author Greg Mortenson for the paper, and her blogs have appeared on the Huffington Post and KCRW’s Web site. Still, she counts among her favorite articles her profile of a teenage mother at the school.
“I like more provocative, interesting topics that other sections and schools don’t have the way to explore in depth the way we do.”
The spiritual community of IKAR, where she was among the first b’nai mitzvah, has inspired her activism as an expression of Jewish values.
“The support system that a community [like] IKAR brings is amazing.”
Graduating with a 4.35 grade point average, Mickelson is heading to Barnard College as a Centennial Scholar, a program for a select group of students who are given special funding and resources to pursue an independent project as an undergraduate.