Stuyvesant Environmental Club Hosts Speaker Event with Henk Rogers (’72)

Henk Rogers (’72) spoke to Stuyvesant students on April 28 about his personal life and his work to pass environmental legislation.

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Video game designer, managing director of The Tetris Company, and founder of Blue Planet Foundation and Blue Planet Energy Henk Rogers (‘72) was invited by the Stuyvesant Environmental Club (SEC) to participate in a live Q&A on April 28 to share his career experiences. Taking place in the Murray Kahn Theater after school, this event was SEC’s third speaker event of their speaker series this year.

During the event, Rogers shared his life story and experiences, including his time at Stuyvesant, his role as a founder of Tetris, and his recent work in Palau. This work included an EcoSprint, a meeting organized to plan out a transition into renewable energy. “We got stakeholders, people from government, utility, environment, culture, economics, and students into a room where they discussed ways that they could achieve 100 [percent] [r]enewable [e]nergy in Palau,” Rogers said in an e-mail sent out regarding the event. “The senator in charge of energy said she would introduce the 100 [percent] [r]enewable [e]nergy bill into the legislature. Yesterday [April 27, 2022] the President of Palau publicly said that he would move Palau to 100 [percent] [renewable energy] by 2032.”

This speaker event was in many ways different from the two previously planned SEC speaker events this year. “The main difference was that [the two prior speaker events] were on Zoom, and so with our speaker series this year, we want to make it accessible to people and be able to get cool speakers from around the country,” senior and SEC president Nour Kastoun said. “[In the past], it was easier to hold them over Zoom just because it meant more flexibility for people’s schedules both in terms of people who attended and the speakers.”

In addition, Rogers had also interacted with SEC prior to the speaker event. Though he wasn’t in New York to attend the in-person portion of the Earth Day Fair, he was able to attend virtually. Once in New York, Rogers got to meet a few of SEC’s members. “So I’ve met him before, actually. He spoke at Stuy when I was a freshman, and I had gone to the second half of that presentation because I had a thing after school, and I [also] met him at the climate strike in the fall,” Kastoun said.

Some students were also familiar with Rogers prior to the event. “I had also heard about Henk Rogers from a previous source: it was this documentary I watched about him; [it was] about Tetris and how they managed to secure rights,” junior Jeffrey Mui said.

Despite hosting Rogers as the first in-person speaker event of the year, there appeared to be no difficulty in getting students to attend, as students were informed about the event in a variety of ways, such as through e-mails and announcements. “Bio[logy], chem[istry], and physics teachers sent out e-mails letting people know. We made announcements every day for a week on the [morning] announcements, [and] Ms. [Director of Family Engagement Dina] Ingram sent [information to the students],” SEC faculty advisor Marissa Maggio said.

Frequent advertisement of the event proved to be an effective way to gain a larger audience. “I heard about the event through the SEC weekly e-mails. I decided to go for the bonus service hours provided after having wrapped up another meeting,” freshman Muhib Muhib said.

The event mainly worked as a Q&A session to promote interactivity. “We wanted somebody who would be able to moderate and be able to give back and forth on the spot, so I figured Speech and Debate were the best people to go to for that,” Maggio said.

Anagha Purohit, senior and President of the Speech and Debate Team, worked closely with Maggio to create questions that differ from those asked in a typical lecture-style speaker event. “I didn’t really work with [SEC], I spoke with Ms. Maggio and she asked me to come up with a list of questions. She told me what her goals were [for] this event, [such as] making sure that he gets to talk about climate change and his work [related to it], and student activism and involvement,” Purohit said. “So based on that, I drafted up a couple of questions. I also watched a couple [of] videos of talks of this sort just to get an idea of what I should be doing.”

Many students enjoyed the unique aspect of allowing for more engagement within the Q&A session. “It wasn't really much of a presentation like on a board. It was more of him talking and giving a speech. [...] He went from his personal background to a brief presentation on the overview [of his organization], and he also showed a promotional video and then he went to talking about Blue Planet and his […] environmental objectives,” Mui said.

Rogers’s passion in approaching his environmental goals has inspired and changed the views of many in relation to environmental organizations. “I never previously held a very high regard for some [environmental organizations], plus I didn’t really think they were too effective in terms of making political change,” Mui said. “I like [Rogers’s] goals [of political change] and the fact that he’s willing to be a bit more proactive and achieve them rather than engaging in the same kind[s] of [things as] performative activists.”

Though this may be the last SEC guest speaker event this year, Rogers hopes that students obtained new perspectives from his story and would start to play active roles in improving their community. “The process of bringing systemic change is not that easy. It takes months of preparation, introducing a bill, starting community meetings, and passing the bill to make this commitment a law,” Rogers said. “Our immediate goals are to engage you in getting you out into your community, connecting with your adult mentors, [and] bringing awareness to your fellow citizens.”

Francois Rogers, the Blue Planet Foundation’s Director of Global Outreach, concurs with Henk Rogers’s motives. “Last week, when Henk Rogers, our founder, presented at your school, he witnessed a bunch of passionate, driven, and sincere individuals like yourselves who all demonstrated how much you want to see a better future for our planet. We are certain that you will make us all proud one day and become wonderful leaders of the world,” Francois Rogers said in an e-mail interview.