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Leila Tevlin ’25, a Sociology and Anthropology major at Elmira College, had a life-changing road trip during fall 2022. The journey was part of a documentary program called "Roadtrip Nation," which often airs on public broadcast stations across the country. It premiered August 7, 2023.
Use the following link to watch the trailer for the four-part series, titled "Empowered State."
During the trip, Tevlin and two other “roadtrippers” David Yang, a computer science student at Columbia University, and Julia Dworetzky, who works as an environmental engineer in New York City, traveled across New York state to talk to professionals in the clean energy and sustainability fields while a film crew tagged along.
“At first it was really weird to have the camera on me all the time,” Tevlin said. “The crew collected a lot of b-roll, and there was a lot of, ‘can you do that again?’ It amplified my emotions.”
“It was cool though, I felt like a little movie star,” they added with a wry smile.
Roadtrip Nation aims to help young adults unsure about their career options gain more knowledge about their career possibilities. By taking a storytelling approach, Roadtrip Nation hopes to inspire other students who feel similarly uncertain about what career path to take.
Tevlin became a roadtripper, in part, because they were struggling academically and were unsure if they were on the right path.
“When I came to Elmira College, I had some culture shock, especially being in a science field,” they said. Tevlin first planned to major in Enviornmental Science, but switched their major to Sociology and Anthropology and is now minoring in Environmental Science. “I had a lot of imposter syndrome, always feeling like others are smarter than me or had a better background.”
Tevlin, Yang, and Dworetzky met with sustainability professionals in Niagara Falls, Ithaca, Plattsburgh, Albany, and New York City. The trio and their film crew also stopped at Elmira College to film Tevlin as part of sharing their “backstory.”
Over the course of the trip, Tevlin grew close to Yang and Dworetzky, as well as the small film crew. “We became a little family.”
Tevlin, who was the youngest on the trip, found plenty of things to learn from the older traveling companions.
“I related to David but I could see how he was better at handling a big workload and managing his stress. But I realized that we’re similar, so it made me understand that I could also manage a big workload.”
The roadtrippers spoke to a range of professionals including Niagara Falls Regional Manager Daniella Pipe and Rebecca Evans, who is crafting the green new deal for Ithaca. The trio also spoke with a flight tester who tests electric planes, and a person working in a sustainable brewery.
“The sustainable brewer was really cool. He doesn’t drink alcohol so he sips and spits,” said Tevlin.
Tevlin said meeting Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director of the nonprofit organization UpRose, had a particularly profound impact on them.
“She was my favorite,” they said. “I’m brown and queer and she made me feel seen in ways I hadn’t seen before because navigating the world as a brown person is hard.”
Getting exposed to people with different types of roles helped Tevlin learn the range of possibilities that they were previously unaware of. But it also helped Tevlin gain a new sense of confidence.
“The workforce doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it's made out to be. The common theme I saw was that the degree the professionals got didn’t necessarily correlate with what they were doing,” Tevlin said. “One person who majored in Chinese History ended up working for a startup in coding. How’d you get from Chinese History to coding? It doesn’t necessarily matter and it doesn’t have to define you unless you want it to.”
“Roadtrip Nation showed me it’s OK to follow my passion and see where it goes,” Tevlin added.
Before Roadtrip Nation, Tevlin created a vlog for Elmira College, giving a first-hand look at the College’s inaugural Worldwide Teach-In on Climate and Justice. And while Tevlin continues to weigh what career path to take after graduation, they know that their passion for sustainability and environmental science will be a part of their journey.