Born to Lead and InspireJanuary 31, 2022
This year, IPSF celebrates our 25th anniversary of supporting the educational experience of each child in every school in the Irvine Unified School District. We are so proud to support such an amazing educational community and are seeking to commemorate exciting achievements from IUSD students and alumni through our Profiles in Excellence Showcase.
Profiles in Excellence: Matthew Chang
At just 15 years old, Matthew Chang is proof that age is just a number. Not only has he founded a student climate change organization that includes 20 schools and has more than 600 members, he also has become a leader who inspires his peers to make their own impact on the world.
As a curious young boy, Matthew grew up feeling lucky to live in a world full of natural wonders. Some of his earliest childhood memories include asking his parents about the movement of ocean tides and the towering height of Redwood trees. His inquisitiveness deepened in elementary school, where he enjoyed combining baking soda and vinegar in explosive experiments and venturing on field trips to the California Science Center, where he was fascinated by everything from animal ecosystems to space shuttles.
“The first time I heard the words ‘climate change,’ I was in the sixth grade during a school assembly,” explains Matthew. “After learning about the drastic impacts of ocean acidification, sea level rise, and increasing global temperatures, I felt deeply compelled to act.”
In middle school, Matthew began volunteering for a local environmental nonprofit, to restore marine habitats in beaches, survey areas of endangerment for human activity, and conduct experiments about the effects of climate change. Using his platform as his school’s student body president, Matthew decided to teach his peers more about this issue. He organized fundraisers for environmental causes and broadcasted weekly “fun facts” about climate change.
Matthew founded the Irvine Climate Action Network (ICAN) to connect environmentalists and provide a community for them to share ideas and inspire each other.
“While I’m proud of ICAN’s work in implementing sustainability curriculum in schools across Orange County, I’m most proud of seeing my peers grow as leaders through my organization,” says Matthew.
Matthew joined the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee in the summer of 2021 as a member-at-large and has collaborated with Mayor Farrah Khan and fellow committee members on several initiatives. As chair of the Outreach and Education subcommittee, Matthew is working to spread awareness about Irvine’s sustainability efforts and to shape climate education for future generations.
“I’m excited for the future of Irvine, and through my work, I hope to put an end to climate change and inspire other youth to fight for their beliefs,” said Matthew.
In December, Matthew was honored with a Future Leader Award at the Greater Irvine Chamber’s third annual 40 Under 40 event. This event recognizes some of Orange County’s brightest young professionals who are positively impacting and moving our community forward.
“Being recognized by my community means the world to me, and I am very humbled and honored to receive this award,” Matthew explains. “To be a leader is to put people first, to encourage and support others to be a better version of themselves. A good leader is humble, responsible, and authentic. As freshman student body president at Woodbridge High School, I always try to embody these attributes and lead my peers forward.”
Matthew hopes to continue his work on climate change in the future and said regardless of where life takes him, he hopes to serve and contribute to every community he’s a part of and always be an empathetic and dedicated leader.
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