To forge the “equitable, sustainable, and joyous future” that Hewitt wants for its students, we, as those students, must be leaders right now and encourage private inter-school fossil fuel divestment.

Divesting from companies heavily involved in fossil fuels – selling unethical or morally questionable stocks, bonds, or investment funds – discourages those companies from engaging in environment-damaging behavior, and encourages people to invest in eco-friendly companies. As the New Yorker once put it, “Divestment is an example of socially responsible investing—the practice of either investing only in socially valuable companies or, more commonly, refusing to invest in companies that are deemed unethical.”

For my senior project, I am creating a proposal for the Hewitt School to divest from fossil fuel companies. I was inspired to pursue this topic for my senior project through Mr. Clare’s class, “Uncovering Climate Change: Science, Economics, and Culture.” He is now assisting me with my initiative. Mr. Clare says, “An investment is a direct reflection of what we value.” I believe if schools invest in fossil fuel companies, they cannot define themselves as a sustainable institution.

“Whether that be an investment of our time, our energy, or a financial investment,” Mr. Clare says. “As an institution that places the values of equity and sustainability at the core of its educational mission, our investments should align with those values. As an institution with the privilege of having wealth to invest, we should focus that investment on businesses and industries that promote environmental sustainability and social equity, not destroy it.”

 At the moment, the Hewitt administration has declined to share its investments with the Hewitt Times, so specific information about their holdings is not available.

As I researched divestment initiatives at Harvard, Yale, and other top universities, I learned about some of the most public fossil fuel divestment initiatives in academia. Harvard, one of the most visible universities in the world, divested from fossil fuels in September 2021. According to, which provides data on fossil-fuel divestment commitments made by institutions worldwide from 2012 to 2019: “By 2019, 1,115 institutions with more than 11 trillion U.S. dollars in assets under management had committed to divest from fossil fuel industries globally, up from 730 in 2017.”

Hewitt should be a leader in this area. I am continuing the work Hewitt graduate Camryn Lipman ‘19 began in her senior year. Following the 2018 Student Rally for Earth (the “Climate March”), Lipman sent a letter to Dr. Kinsey; Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Odom; and Hewitt’s Board Chair, Juan Sabater, requesting that Hewitt begin exploring fossil fuel divestment. According to Lipman’s letter, her goal was to “motivate our school to take meaningful action that supports sustainability.” I hope to continue the conversation she started three years ago.

Divestment has become a popular topic at many private schools and colleges as students advocate for the removal of the millions of dollars private institutions have invested in oil, gas, and coal corporations. Growing numbers of environmental activists have begun promoting more ecologically responsible investments in their school’s endowment which is composed of money or other financial assets that are donated to academic institutions. The movement originated in the 1970s across the United States. The idea of divestment did not only pertain to fossil fuels; it extended to any company investments that contributed to unethical business practices. The first divestment campaign in 1980 concerned Anti-Apartheid and funding corporations that supported, directly or indirectly, the government of South Africa. The mission of selling unethical stocks eventually spread to schools and universities conducting business with large fossil fuel companies.

Investments in big oil companies like ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Total S.A, and Chevron Corporation are contributing to the growth of these fossil fuel companies, further decimating our environment. A common perspective on fossil fuel divestment is questioning what environmentally safe companies would people invest their money and could still receive a high economic return. Some of the best 2022 green companies for Hewitt to invest in are Brookfield Renewable Partners L.P, SunPower Corporation, First Solar, and Plug Power Inc. Brookfield Renewable Partners is making substantial growth operating solar, hydro, and thermal energy.

The main issue with private institutions divesting is that, unlike public schools, private organizations are not obliged to share their investments; this makes it a very closed-off topic. Hewitt has declined to share their investments at the moment, but through my senior project, I hope to broaden the conversation and create more transparency between the administration and students. Even with all these barriers against divestment, a private Quaker Pennsylvania high school was one of the first to divest from coal companies in 2015. According to InsideClimateNews, “George School in Newtown announced April 27 that it would divest its $150 million endowments of holdings in coal mining companies, becoming the first secondary school in the nation to join the global movement to rid investment portfolios of fossil fuel stocks.” Students started this petition. Some of the responses they received from the administration board was that divesting from fossil fuels would “negatively impact the earnings on the endowment.” Although not divested from all fossil fuels, the school divested from coal and started investing in renewable energy companies. Divesting from coal is a step in the right direction, but is in no way a complete solution. In addition to the Quaker Pennsylvania high school, the private independent institution in New York City, Ethical Culture Fieldston School (ECFS), began a divestment initiative a couple of years ago. According to Yale Daily News, “Alexandra Barlowe started Fossil Free Fieldston, a divestment campaign at her New York City private school that had an endowment “bigger than some small colleges,” she said. She held meetings, wrote up a proposal, passed out buttons, and eventually met with the school’s principal and CFO. In the end, she felt like neither of them took her campaign seriously, despite the hundreds of signatures her petition garnered.”

Inspired by the passion and dedication of students across the country advocating for fossil-free schools, I have been making substantial progress on my senior project research proposal for Hewitt’s divestment. After meeting with Mr. Odom, the Chief Financial Officer at Hewitt, I gained insight into our investment policies and learned about previous endowment and 401k investments. Mr. Odom said, “The school’s investments can be broadly described as a balance of fixed income and equity investments appropriate for an educational institution that wishes to preserve and grow its long term financial resources.” In addition, Mr. Odom shared with me that Hewitt follows their own investment policy. In the coming months, I plan to develop a well-rounded proposal for new, environmentally responsible companies that the Hewitt School institution will hopefully invest in. It has been well received so far, with both students and faculty enthusiastic about my proposal. In the next few weeks, I will meet with a representative from an investment bank to learn what stocks our school’s endowment is invested in and discuss the possibility of Hewitt divesting from fossil fuels. I plan to focus on awareness as I share my fossil fuel divestment initiative with my NYC community through newspaper article updates and inter-school green team meetings. At the end of the year, I plan to present to the Board of Trustees and the Hewitt administration. I envision that The Hewitt School will be the first all-girls independent school in New York City to divest from the industries most contributing to climate change!

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