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Q&A: Meet Houston Organizer Haley Schulz

Haley Schulz is a Houston-based community organizer for the Texas office of Public Citizen. Haley is a born-and-raised Houstonian and looks forward to advocating for the people of Texas through mobilizing communities and building coalitions.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a Houston native and grew up in Sugar Land, just southwest of Houston. I have always been a curious person and enjoy asking “why,” and I really feel that has led me down a unique path when it comes to my career. I constantly look for opportunities to learn and understand. Turning my work toward public advocacy is very rewarding and humbling. I enjoy reading and playing French horn with the Texas Medical Center Orchestra in my free time. I LOVE music and the rich cultural scene Houston has to offer. My family and I also love to travel and enjoy the outdoors whenever possible.

What did you do before joining Public Citizen?
My winding career has led me through MANY different industries. Starting with a summer job at a cough syrup laboratory, I studied Music Business at the University of Houston due to my love of playing music. I had a performance major with a marketing minor and wanted to get into the performing arts on the non-profit/administrative side. I worked with the Houston Symphony and then shifted careers into accreditation. I learned a lot about process improvement and account management. From there, I moved into the energy sector with a company that provides surplus solutions for energy clients. That’s where I got an insight into the oil & gas industry and realized its influence on Houston and the world. Over the past few years, I made it a personal mission to learn what Houston’s environmental justice landscape looked like. I started attending weeknight meetings, and town halls and signing up for any seminar to educate me about the climate movement. I kept looking for opportunities to be an advocate for my community. Those experiences led me to Public Citizen and the fantastic work this organization does at the national level and here in my home state.

That’s an interesting background! How does your experience influence your approach to organizing?
In my career and personal journey, I have met many people from different walks of life. Being empathic and hyper-aware, I enjoy connecting with people but also want to do right by them. So when I woke up to the social justice issues here in Houston, I felt deeply connected with my neighbors and empowered to take action. My experiences each offer me a unique perspective on the work I do today. With my recent work in the energy sector and coming from an industry that is heavily embedded in our economy and day-to-day lives (hello Houston, the “Energy Capitol of the World”), I understand the players and hope to offer creative solutions to the issues. I also have a journalistic approach to understanding scenarios, so my curiosity keeps me enlightened and moving toward solutions. I think these attributes all play a vital role in my work.

In the time you have been at Public Citizen, what have you observed about Houston as it relates to the issue areas in which the Texas office works?
It’s all wholly relevant, and there is much-needed work here in Houston. Houston is home to over 5,000 energy-related firms, accounting for over 42% of the nation’s base petrochemical capacity. Our coastal location bodes well for commerce and exports with the Houston Ship Channel. The industrial buildout in Houston and along the coast is immense, which also means the sacrifice zones and communities bear the brunt of the consequences. Public Citizen is a part of many coalitions tackling various advocacy issues across the state, and I’m eager to join these conversations and affect real change.

What advice would you give someone new to social justice or public advocacy?
To make a difference, start with compassion and ask questions. If we are open-minded, take time to listen, and act in each other’s best interests, we can do so much good in the world. My journey started with curiosity and empathy, but now I get to work daily advocating for my community. I believe we, as people, are innovative and creative and have solutions for a brighter future. But barriers are hindering us from moving forward, and my job is to remove those. I hope to inspire empathy and action, as many others did for me, so we can work together and inspire the next generations.

Any last comments for our readers?
I can’t wait to meet you! This vital work we do at Public Citizen is impossible without connecting. I may have started as a “concerned citizen,” but I’m excited and proud to be in this space as my career.

I look forward to helping build a brighter future for Texans with you.