Doyle Murphy sat in Mr. Galvis' Science Class diligently taking notes and staying focused on the lecture as always. Mr. Galvis was one of the best teachers at Blue County Charter School and Doyle wanted to prove that he belonged in Galvis' Senior Honors Class.
Education was about the only thing left in Doyle's life and he wanted to impress Mr. Galvis. The teacher was in his early fifties but he looked twenty years younger and most of the smarter kids admired him and took him seriously, even with his heavy rimmed glasses and semi-mad scientist gray hair mop.
The bell signaling the end of the period sounded and the class began heading for the door.
"Holly and Doyle, could I see you for a moment?" Mr. Galvis asked before either of the students made it to the door.
Doyle was surprised to hear his name included in the company of Holly Newson's - not only was she intelligent, but she was popular, worldly, and mature.
Holly and Doyle both stopped at Mr. Galvis desk.
"Congratulations," Mr. Galvis grinned. "You two been invited to the New England Science Initiative Presentation on Climate Change at Hanover High School in New Hampshire," the teacher proudly announced.
A huge smile came across Holly's face and she beamed with excitement. "Great!" She exclaimed.
Doyle remained reserved as was his nature.
"I submitted your papers on the subject to the Initiative and you've been selected to attend," Mr. Galvis explained. "The event is limited to a hundred students from the region so this is a big accomplishment for our humble school. It's scheduled for December 10th. The only hitch is that transportation is not included."
"I have a car," Holly said.
"Can Doyle tag along with you?" Mr. Galvis asked hopefully.
"Oh, sure," Holly decided on the spot, throwing Doyle a quick look.
"Good," Mr. Galvis said, digging through various forms on his desk. "Here's the permission slips and other red tape. Take the papers home, fill them out, and return them to me tomorrow with your parent's signatures."
Holly happily accepted the forms from her teacher and she proudly left the room, delighted with her accomplishment.
"Doyle?" Mr. Galvis asked as the student remained frozen in front of the teacher's desk. "You okay with this?"
"Yes, Sir," Doyle said in a monotone. "Sounds like a great conference."
"I meant tagging along with Holly," Mr. Galvis clarified.
"Oh, yeah, uh, sure," Doyle said with embarrassment.
"Remember what I told you at the beginning of the year," Mr. Galvis advised as he handed the student the paperwork. "You deserve to be here. You belong here. Stand your ground. Hold your place."
"I will," Doyle vowed.
"Besides, maybe this will bring about a climate change for you," Mr. Galvis remarked, giving him a bemused look but Doyle didn't get the inference.
"Okay then," Mr. Galvis continued with a sigh, gesturing toward the paperwork the teen was holding. "Good job, Doyle"
"Thanks, Sir," Doyle replied without emotion as he left the room.
The seminar was two weeks away and Doyle looked forwarded to the event addressing world climate change politics and policy, its impact on natural resources, and what steps might be taken to tackle climate change problems and challenges. He also knew his selection was a big deal given his age.
Although he was a member of the senior class, the younger Doyle usually hung out with the freshman and sophomores who were in his age group. He transferred to the charter school at the beginning of the school year having been ridiculed and bullied at Greenville High School for his intellect and for skipping a couple of grades.
The charter school was a different environment - much more progressive, liberal, inclusive, and restorative, and while Doyle didn't have any bullying issues here, he was still trying to find his place within the school social structure - not quite a Senior (in stature or status) but not really a Freshman or Sophomore either since he was in all the Senior Honor classes.
Doyle was relatively short for his almost sixteen years and a bit of a nerd when it came to cultural sophistication (the coolness scale) but Doyle was definitely smart though hopeless shy and reserved. It didn't help that he wore old fashion black-rimmed glasses and his hair was long and seemingly unkempt.
Doyle decided not to worry about attending the conference with Holly. He was more focused on his interest in climate change and he looked forward to the conference even if it was going to include some social awkwardness hanging out with an attractive older girl.
Doyle was surprised the next day when Holly took a seat across from him in the school library. It's the first time she interacted with him since his arrival at the school.
"Doyle, right?" She said.
"Doyle Murphy," he confirmed.
"You're new here this year."
"I am," he said.
"I'm Holly Newson."
"I know." He tried not to blush.
This was the first time he got a good look at her up close. She made him feel nervous. She had brown hair to her shoulders, a pug nose, deep eyes and Vulcan eyebrows. She could be memorizing if Doyle dared to look at her too long.
"You're younger," Holly observed.
"I'll be sixteen in a couple of weeks," he revealed.
"But you're a senior?"
"I skipped seventh and eighth grade," he explained.
"The teachers felt I was way ahead."
"Why Blue County Charter School for senior year?" She asked.
"I got picked on at the public high school," Doyle disclosed with embarrassment.
"That's terrible," Holly said.
"I was home schooled early on but then there were family issues. I went to the Christian school and then the Catholic school but my mother didn't like the religious overkill so I ended up at the high school but I was two years younger and that made me easy prey, especially when they realized how smart I was."
"Some kids can be jerks," Holly sighed.
"It didn't matter how smart I was," Doyle stated. "I still got stuffed in lockers and called a nerdy loser."
"What did you write your paper on for the Initiative submission?" Holly asked with interest, thankfully changing the subject.
"Taxing items that are harmful to the climate," Doyle revealed. "If you want to make people change their habits and outlooks, hit them in the wallet. That will make them much more aware."
Holly nodded in agreement. "I wrote that we need to go after companies and corporations instead of people. More restrictions on companies and corporations that produce too much carbon dioxide."
"That makes sense," Doyle agreed.
"The government should also work with businesses to limit the burning of fossil fuels," Holly said with emphasis. "Work together on green innovation to change the products they make."
"That's what the Green New Deal is all about," Doyle observed.
"Exactly!" Holly said with excitement. "We need to be making sacrifices and changes now before it's too late."
"We should be doing way more planting," Doyle remarked. "Plants take CO2 from the atmosphere and store the carbon in their trunks, stems, and leaves. The more plants, the less CO2. We should be planting miles and miles and miles of trees."
"And we could have plants on buildings too," Holly said. "Green roofs, covered with gardens and greenery!"
"Technology development too," Doyle said. "Like trapping carbons to capture emissions and reusing them."
"Sounds like you know this stuff," an impressed Holly said with appreciation.
"It's up to our generation to change the way people think about climate change," Doyle argued. "It's not just about the temperatures getting warmer. It's mostly about extreme weather changes that are going to change the way we live and exist."
"So true," Holly agreed. "We have to educate people. We need collaboration. Get everybody on the same page. People need to realize and accept that this is a serious problem that needs solving or our kids and grandkids are going to have a complete different sort of life."
"Sounds like you're exactly the type of person who deserves to be at the conference," Doyle observed.
"You too," Holly decided. "I'm glad you're onboard with all of this."
"You okay being seen with me?" Doyle asked.
She gave him a funny look. "Why wouldn't I be?"
He shrugged. "Maybe somebody will want to stuff me into a locker at the conference."
"The people at the conference are going to want to stuff jerk climate change deniers into lockers," Holly replied. "It's going to be fine. We'll make a good team there."
Doyle couldn't believe his good fortune. Not only was he going to the conference, but he was going to be seen in the company of one of the prettiest and smartest girls in the school.
"Where do you live?" Holly asked. "I'll pick you up at 6:30 that morning so we'll get there in plenty of time."
"Oh," Doyle said, embarrassed to have to disclose where he lived. "Twenty Two River Street."
"By the Mill River, right?" Holly asked.
"Yeah," he said. At least she didn't say Dumpsville.
"Okay," Holly replied, standing from the table. "This is going to be great, Doyle. I was dying for the chance to go to this conference."
"Me too," Doyle said with a forced smile.
"Great!" She said before disappearing from the library.
Doyle let out a sigh as he fell back in his chair. This was going to be torture – not the conference, but having to be him with her.