There are a number of, often times, negative generalisations made about teenagers in the social media age, casting them as selfish and disengaged. But having the chance to speak with someone like Nicola Tsiolis proves that such generalisations should be taken with a grain of salt.

Passionate about the preservation of the environment, the 17-year-old Catholic Ladies’ College student was selected as an Ocean Youth Ambassador for 2019 last month. In this role, Nicola will be involved in marine conservation and animal care, through which she will gain a broader understanding of issues surrounding the environment, as well as collaboratively pursuing ideas for projects to ensure that our oceans will be supported and thrive well into the future.

The impressive opportunity came about thanks to one of the Cypriot Australian’s science teachers, who brought the application to her attention, having recognised her student’s love of the ocean and ambitions in marine biology.

Nicola is also the school’s co-social justice and environment captain, a position she is grateful for, giving her the chance to be a representative of her fellow students, to give voice to their concerns regarding real-world issues and topics.”The other captain and myself are currently trying to bring about a great deal of positive environmental and social change in our school,” she told Neos Kosmos.

“Whether it be the smallest of things – adding more recycling bins around the place, or if it’s raising awareness and funds for crucial foundations that our morals and school values align with. We strongly believe that if we are able to give someone a different perspective, that we are one step closer to changing the world.”

Nicola revealed that if she were to set out listing all of her environmental concerns, that it would “take me years”. She puts the world’s current predicament down to ignorance, and a lack of empathy.

“What I do believe is that our ignorance as a whole world society and our lack of empathy and love, not only for each other, but for the earth in which we thrive on, is what’s wrong,” she says.

“But just because something’s wrong, doesn’t mean we give up, and that’s exactly what we are doing. Whether it be by dropping your rubbish on the ground, whether it be walking past it, or simply looking in the other direction; you have given up on what should be our main priority: the earth.”

But the 17-year-old isn’t without hope. She says that education about climate change, and giving people an understanding of the true impact of pollution on each and every human on the planet, is key to positive change. That and taking personal responsibility.

“[We need to] thoroughly research who and what exactly we are voting for when we do vote, for what exactly are we paying for when we purchase something from that shop; it’s about doing your own part, working together to give our, and your children, a future,” Nicola urges. “We need to stop talking and just take action.”

Nicola says that it doesn’t have to be hard; just start small and “go reusable, not disposable”.