Incoming Palmetto High School senior Richard (Matt) Barocas is a member of the Pinecrest Youth Advisory Council and the CLEO Institute Task Force.
“I’m doing a project through the CLEO Institute on water bottles,” he says. “For Earth Day, I built a cage out of water bottles. I glued them together and strung them together.”
The cage was big enough to hold three to four people. People went in and out of the cage throughout the day.
“I picked from the little tiny ones to the big ones,” he says. “I didn’t want to single out any brand. It was just water bottles in general.”
He did use a specific number of water bottles to build the cage.
“168, that’s how many the average American uses in a year,” he says.
He says as a society we are getting trapped by water bottles.
“The year before, I had collected 168 bottles and put them on a table,” he says. “It just came to me in an instant. How it traps sea life. I wanted to show it on a scale of trapping humans in plastic.”
So this summer he’s running a social media campaign about water bottles called “DumptheBottle.” His goal is to convince people in South Florida to stop drinking bottled water.
“We have high tap water quality,” he says.
Over the years, Barcoas has become passionate about climate change. He’s been with CLEO for two years and he took the Advanced Placement Environmental Science class that has inspired many others to get serious about climate change.
“I have a presentation that I do to schools about climate change,” he says.
He’s participated on climate change walks. Barocas has been with CLEO for two years. His participation on the Pinecrest Advisory Council gives him a voice on climate change issues. It also gives him the opportunity to work on programs that matter to the community, such as Earth Day and Veteran’s Day events.
“Out of those, the one I enjoy the most is definitely Veteran’s Day,” he says. “It’s meeting the veterans. Hearing their stories. They like to sit you down and tell you the stories. Stories you won’t hear anywhere else.”
One of the questions he’s asked was “do you still have hatred toward the enemy?”
“I got a long answer from a veteran, forgiving the other countries for the atrocities they saw,” he says.
At school, he’s on the History Bowl team and has competed on the national level twice. The team competed in Washington, DC in April and won in their bracket. There is no overall winner.
He’s also co-vice president of the Italian Honor Society. This coming year he’ll take AP Italian, his fourth year of Italian.
The group shows Italian movies and brings in Italian food to meetings. They’ve also taken a cooking class at an Italian restaurant.
Barocas will be the senior class treasurer and president of the Social Science Honor Society. He plays singles in badminton.
He’s been researching colleges and currently is looking at Vanderbilt, Duke, the University of Florida, and Princeton. He’s considering political science as a major with a minor in environmental science. Elected office is likely in his future.
“The way I can most effect climate change is through politics,” he says. “Not through more studies, but using studies. That’s why I want to work in politics or work in government.”
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld