HARVARD -- Sofia Catalina's passion for the environment has landed her a trip to China that began this week.
The Bromfield School junior is one of 15 high school students from across the country who received an EF Tours' Global Citizen Scholarship, which pays for a nine-day trip to Shanghai and Beijing.
The excursion is for the company's Global Student Leaders Summit, which will emphasize social responsibility. Students will travel to historic places like the Great Wall, meeting for a two-day conference with guest speakers such as former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.
Catalina said she's excited and not sure what to expect.
"I want to try to get the most out of this trip, in that I want to absorb the culture and the food and the people there because it's so exotic and different than anything else I've ever been to," she said.
Catalina submitted a video explaining a responsible business she would create if she had sufficient start-up money. She chose to focus on the environment, explaining her vision of a business that would provide education for schools to teach children about sustainability.
Catalina said her idea focused on teaching children from a young age the importance of preserving the environment.
"Even if it's just little things like turning off the faucet when you're brushing your teeth or recycling instead of just throwing things in the trash can make a big difference if done on a major scale," she said.
But this is not her first time abroad with EF Tours. Last year, the school sent two dozen students to Costa Rica for the same EF summit. Catalina's student group worked on a presentation about cafeteria waste, winning the opportunity to present to former Vice President Al Gore.
"Presenting to Al Gore was terrifying, but it was also very gratifying because he was very interested in what we would say," she said.
The group built off of that same sustainability idea when they returned from the summit, applying for and receiving a $500 grant to buy sustainable mugs that students can use for coffee.
Since returning from the first summit, Catalina said the environment became a more important issue to her. She joined Harvard's Energy Advisory Committee, working to replace school faucets with ones that conserve more water.
"That's been a cool opportunity because I can see into the town and government aspects of it, what sort of things have to be done in order to have green initiatives and what towns can do to be a green community," she said.
Catalina is also conducting a survey for teachers on temperature to see if any areas of the school could use less or more heat. As a member of the school's new Green Team, Catalina's concern over the environment shines through.
Principal James O'Shea said Catalina is an outstanding student.
"She's a wonderful young woman, and I can see her going many places," he said. "We're proud of everything she does."
Because the school did not sponsor the second summit abroad, Catalina applied for the trip on her own.
"This is one of those situations where she sought out an opportunity, saw it was available, took the initiative and made it happen," O'Shea said. "That's kind of who Sofia is."
Bryce Mattie, a global studies teacher who accompanied students on the trip last year, said Catalina is a "real go-getter."
"She's a pleasure to teach because she's very intellectually curious and she'll take it upon herself to research things she's interested in," said Mattie, who is also advisor to the Green Team.
Mattie said it will be excellent for Catalina to meet and be challenged by students with the same vision that she has.
"She's learning a lot of great life lessons at an early age, and I think that by doing this, it's going to help her continue to strive for these things in the future and to really seek out other opportunities," she said.