Writing for the Planet
“Central will always feel like home to me.”
– Emma Chervek ’21
Hometown: Altoona, Iowa
Majors: English, Secondary Education
Campus Activities/Organizations: Students Concerned About the Environment, Central Teacher Academy, Poetry Club, Alpha Zeta Mu
Scholarships: Joan Kuyper Farver, Geisler Penquite
Exceptional Accomplishments: Rachel Carson Council Fellowship; John Allen Writing Award; CTA Award; Vander Lugt-Voss Prizes in the Humanities — English
Graduate School: University of Colorado Boulder
From a young age, Emma Chervek ’21 knew she wanted to help others — but what she didn’t know was how. Chervek found her answer at Central College.
“I taught piano lessons from sixth grade until I graduated high school,” Chervek says. “I loved connecting with my students and watching them grow. I wanted to chase that feeling.”
Originally, Chervek naturally gravitated toward teaching. She was offered a Geisler Penquite Scholarship after being accepted into the Central Teacher Academy, the only teacher preparatory program of its kind in Iowa. Through the program, Chervek was given the opportunity to student teach in local school districts. Her experience solidified her passion for people, learning and forming meaningful relationships — the foundations of a Central education.
“The experience of talking in front of a group of students in a classroom has really improved my communications skills. I can better articulate my thoughts,” Chervek says. “Kids will tell you everything about their lives, and it’s made me realize there’s always more to a person, even if they don’t tell you.”
Along with the pursuit of lifelong learning, Chervek came to Central with a passion and exceptional talent for writing. But she also discovered a new one — environmental journalism. What started as casual conversations with friends who were environmental studies majors quickly turned into a mission to help others. Getting involved with clubs like SCATE and participating in service learning through the course Writing for Nonprofit Organizations helped Chervek cultivate the knowledge she needed to pursue a future in education sustainability.
“There are a lot of people who don’t understand climate change and the serious impact it will continue to have if we don’t collectively do something about it,” Chervek says. “I want to teach people about it and the importance of environmental health and justice.”
She’s been doing just that. With the help of Brian Campbell, Central’s adjunct instructor of religion and executive director of Iowa Environmental Council, Chervek applied for and was named a 2020-21 Rachel Carson Campus Fellow. The competitive fellowship helps students carry out and organize educational projects with the goal of advocating and advancing environmental health and equitable policy.
Through her project, Chervek created the podcast “The Real Steaks: The True Cost of the Agriculture Industry,” in which she interviews experts, workers and community members about sustainable agriculture. She also contributes written articles for the council on the same subject. Personal and thoughtful mentorship from English faculty and the opportunity to write outside of Central’s curriculum has prepared Chervek for a promising future.
“I’ve been able to learn about different perspectives from different voices through course material and discussions with faculty and classmates. The faculty at Central hold you accountable but also give you freedom to be creative and have fun, and that’s been so important for both my personal and professional growth,” Chervek says. “I feel fully prepared to take that next step.”
For Chervek, that next step is obtaining a master’s degree in environmental journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder. Although she’s trading cornfields for mountains, a piece of her heart will always remain at Central.
“Central will always feel like home to me,” Chervek says.