There is at least one citizen of Portage, Indiana who thinks about the future differently. Ethyl Ruehman has dedicated her life to making sure the future includes two things: care of the planet, and a voice for our youth who will ultimately usher in the future.
“I feel like I have a responsibility to instigate change for not just my home, but the whole world,” Ruehman said. “Working with young people is the most important thing that I have done. I love helping them speak about the things they care about.”
Ruehman has been in the Region her entire life. She was born in Valparaiso and now lives in the Portage area. She takes classes at Indiana University, studying sustainable public and environmental affairs. Ruehman wants to help make as many changes as possible, wherever she can. She starts with affecting change in her own backyard.
“I know I could go anywhere. Do I want to go somewhere else and try to fit in, or try to help the communities where I live?” Ruehman said. “I didn't get a chance to help make changes growing up, so it's important to me that I can do as much as possible for my home.”
Ruehman has done a lot to help out already, including being part of the Northwest Indiana youth climate group. She has also spoken at several public council meetings. Despite sometimes being dismissed for being only 20 years old, Ruehman is determined to speak confidently and fight as hard as she can for a better future.
“No matter what, I want to make sure all voices are heard, not just my own,” Ruehman said. “It can be challenging being so young and not being taken seriously, but I think we are gaining enough support. We are starting to make an impact."
Ruehman has had a lot of time in the spotlight in her fight for a viable future. Though she is ready to take more of a step back, she will never stop fighting for change.
“I think when the new year comes around I will try to do some more advising than leading,” Ruehman said. “I have had my time to shine, now it's time for me to help make sure everyone else gets a chance to as well.”
Ruehman advises that one thing is particularly important for communities as a whole to build healthy futures.
“Care about the community and care about each other,” Ruehman said. “We want to build a culture here that supports and is kind to one another so we can start making the change needed.”