IEC Intros: Meet Sonita van der Leeuw

posted by Sonita van der Leeuw on Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Sonita by the river

I grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota surrounded by the bustling of the Twin Cities but with the Mississippi River just a short hike away. Getting out outside was something that was a part of my life ever since I can remember, whether it was walking to my local park or spending time in the woods along the Mississippi River.

When I was nine years old I declared, thanks to a school project, that blue whales were my favorite animal on this entire planet and I was going to save them. Even then, I knew that meant saving their ocean world, which meant saving more than just the blue whales. I had the conviction that only children can that I would do whatever it takes to preserve our planet because it homes such incredible creatures. With that goal locked in my mind as I continued throughout school, I dove deeper and deeper into what that means and what matters to me when addressing how to preserve the planet.

Graduation Photo

The Iowa Environmental Council came on my radar when I was a sophomore in college at Drake University where I learned what an impact policy can make on climate, good and bad. I also learned about environmental justice and environmental racism that year. I took a deep dive into researching, trying to learn as much as I could about environmental justice cases and how environmental racism is an important part of the conversation to combat climate change. Before I knew it, May 2021 rolled around and I graduated from Drake University with a BA in Environmental Sustainability and Resilience and a minor in Rhetoric Media and Social Change, and man was I eager to use it in as many ways as I could! Over the course of two summers, I worked as a counselor at a science museum and a naturalist at a county park; through these experiences I gained exposure to environmental education.

I learned how to have a variety of conversations regarding science and conservation. These experiences really changed me and helped me see what sort of energy I want to put out when talking about science or the environment and how to be an effective educator. But I still wanted to pursue  more paths and see how I could engage in conversations that would generate change in policy and practices in wild places, oceans, rivers, rural places, and cities to create a cleaner planet for all, all humans, creatures, plants, and everything in between.Sonita teaching kids

This is exactly why I knew IEC was where I wanted to be next. You can just imagine how I was thrilled to see a position open to be a part of the 100% Iowa team and help transition cities within Iowa to 24/7 carbon-free energy. I am extremely thankful and excited to get to know more community leaders, residents, businesses and organizations in Central Iowa and learn what clean energy means to them. I especially want to help to elevate all voices in making sure everyone has access to a sustainable future.

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About The Author


Sonita is the Clean Energy Field Organizer for 100% Iowa and joined IEC in September 2021. She brings with her passions for learning herself and then educating others on clean en ... read more