Aviva Prager '14 to scale Mount Shasta in support of Breast Cancer Fund

April 4, 2013

Karah Kemmerly '14

Aviva Prager
Aviva Prager '14

Does a liberal arts education truly prepare students for the professional world? For environmental studies-politics major Aviva Prager ’14, the answer is a resounding yes.

An Albany, Calif., native who chose Whitman for its strong environmental studies department and experiential learning program Semester in the West, Prager clearly has found practical applications for her interdisciplinary interests – mountain climbing for a cause.

The mountain? Northern California’s Mt. Shasta. The cause? San Francisco-based non-profit the Breast Cancer Fund, where Prager previously worked as a science education intern.

“Environmental and social justice is what I’m passionate about,” she said. “Interning with the Breast Cancer Fund has already pushed my academic limits, and now it’s pushing me physically. This isn’t confined to just my major–everything is so connected.”

As a member of last year’s Semester in the West cohort, which ventured across Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada, what Prager enjoyed the most was hearing locals’ stories. She was particularly struck by the story of one woman whose family lived next to a coal mine.

“We could see what they were seeing, feel what they were feeling, breathe the air they were breathing and hear what they were hearing,” she said. “The experience was so different from just reading about it in a classroom. It was really powerful.”

As an intern for the Breast Cancer Fund last summer, Prager focused her efforts on educating the public about environmental causes of breast cancer, such as the toxic chemicals and carcinogens found in everyday products. This summer, in addition to her fundraising climb, she will conduct outreach targeting low-income families and ethnic minorities.

“Sometimes I just think, ‘Wow, I’m really prepared to function in the real world.’ It’s really cool to see how these different things come together, and it makes me feel solid about my Whitman education.”

In an effort to fundraise for the organization’s breast cancer prevention measures, Prager will scale the 14,179-foot heights of Mt. Shasta in June. The climb is especially important to her because it combines personal and professional goals, providing an opportunity to show support for family members battling breast cancer and those with a history of the disease.

“This organization does amazing work, and I’m proud to be supporting them,” she said.

For updates on Prager’s climb, follow her blog.