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Teen proposes no-drive day for feast of St. Francis
By
Jacqueline Gilvard Landry
Source: Catholic News Service
Published: Thursday, April 2, 2009
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OAKLAND, Calif. (CNS)—Thirteen-year-old Jennifer Sekar doesn't drive and she wanted to make sure no one else did either, at least for one day last year.
 
The Fremont teenager hoped 1 million people would not drive Oct. 4, 2008, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, a strong advocate of caring for the earth. She said keeping that many drivers off the road for one day would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10,000 tons.
 
Jennifer's idea, called "A Day of Rest," got off the ground in May 2008 and gained momentum on the Web site www.adayofrest.org.
 
On the site, Jennifer collected online pledges, not for money, but for a promise to not drive any powered vehicle Oct. 4 and to spend the day with family and friends.
 
"You can always be without a car," Jennifer said, "but without family and friends, you can't really do much. 'A Day of Rest' would be a really good time to strengthen people's friendships and bonds with their families."
 
The family bond is strong for the Sekar family, members of St. Joseph Church in Fremont, who helped with the no-driving project. Jennifer's father, Richard, and her 18-year-old sister, Rebecca, helped her create the project's Web site, including the pledge form found there. Her mother and relatives are all drumming up pledges.
 
In a June interview with the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Oakland Diocese, Jennifer said she became dedicated to helping the environment after doing a third-grade school project about saving the earth. "As I grew up, I knew I wanted to do something different to make a difference," she said.
 
In March, after learning that polluting the environment was on a list of "new sins" that a Vatican official said are affecting society, she came up with the no-driving plan.
 
Jennifer—whose first environmental endeavor was, as a third-grader, to ban disposable plates at the Sekar home—has a wider audience and bigger numbers in mind.
 
"If a couple of people get off the road for one day, that's a success in itself, but we're hoping to get a bigger amount off the road," she said.
 
So she wrote about her idea to local mayors, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other federal lawmakers. She also has contacted the mayors of New York City and Los Angeles and talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, asking them to promote her project.
 
The Sekars planned to contact Catholic leaders starting with Oakland Bishop Allen H. Vigneron, hoping to get his endorsement.
 
Although Jennifer has not received any response yet from prominent officials, she said local efforts were quickly gaining momentum and feedback has been very positive. Her pastor, Msgr. Manuel Simas, has included information about the no-driving day in the bulletin and in parish announcements. Jennifer also planned to speak about the project at several Masses over the summer.
 
Jennifer's father said his daughter's efforts to reduce pollution have brought about a "cultural change" in their home. For example, the family now brings cloth bags to the store and he takes public transportation to the airport for his frequent business trips even though it doubles the commute time.
 
Jennifer said she plans to hold herself to the same standards when she gets her driver's license by limiting her own time behind the wheel and by carpooling.


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