CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) — A recent Carlsbad High School graduate is already thinking about making an impact after he turned a difficult moment into a local environmental movement.
Nathan Lu, now a freshman at Pitzer College, started the C3 Club already thinking about its legacy.
On Friday, the Carlsbad Cleanup Crew is a thriving, popular club on the campus at Carlsbad High School, but its origin story is a humble one, involving a jerk, a Slurpee, and Lu's split-second, brave and mature decision.
"I was biking home one day and from out of a window came a slushie at my head," says Lu.
He was a Carlsbad High sophomore then. He didn't know how to react at first.
"I transformed those feelings and those emotions and I walked over to that 7-11 cup. I picked it up... and I put it in the recycling."
That one hard choice led to action.
"That was one of the most empowering things that I think I've done to this day," he adds.
Along with walks on the beach over the years, seeing litter scattered everywhere, that moment spurred Nathan to start weekly community cleanups.
"It started off with just a couple of friends, we went on the beach every single Sunday morning into the city."
That went on for about a year until they were juniors when he and friend Kendal Furman turned their community initiative into a Carlsbad High School club, and C3 more officially began.
In the spring of 2020, the world shut down.
Once they could do it safely though, they continued the cleanups, which helped them cope with the isolation.
From the beginning, Nathan thought about what would happen to the club when they graduated; who would take over the running of C3.
The first leader emerged. Lu and Furman mentored her, and others, to take over.
"At the end of their senior year some miracle happened to us where 14 freshmen wanted to come and be a part of the club," says Lu.
"I asked Nathan if he could rewind to the moment when the slushie was coming at him, what he might tell that kid about how far he would come in a relatively short amount of time."
"As teenagers, it often feels like we don't have a lot of power, whether that's politically or like how we can govern ourselves... but we've done work with Surfrider. We've done work with San Diego Habitat Conservancy."
Part of the legacy that was so important to Nathan and the other founders of the group was the club's policy component, which has since also manifested into meetings with city council members, some of whom have also attended C3 cleanups.
It also manifested into the freshman's studies at Pitzer College, and what he wants to do with his life. Look for environmental studies and policy to benefit from Nathan's and C3's very bright futures.
Because of their dedication to bettering the environment, ABC 10News and LEAD San Diego chose Nathan Lu and C-3 as our 10News Leadership Award winners for the month of December.