EJSI Summer Institute Culminating Projects and Presentation

On Wednesday July 23 the Environmental Justice Summer Institute drew to a close. The hard work of the student and intern participants was showcased through a presentation at Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ 2nd District main office during the Environmental Committee meeting of the Empowerment Congress.
 

The youth gave a presentation (below) and showcased the videos that they made (below) that summarized their EJSI experiences. Committee members listened intently and engaged in a question/answer session with the youth participants, giving them a chance to speak about what they learned and how they think they might utilize the knowledge and experiences gained during the program. The youth were challenged to articulate not only what they learned, but the lessons they intend on taking away and applying to their lives in the near future.Some of the lessons learned were:

  • With knowledge they have a chance to make a difference.
  • The communities that they live in have higher than average levels of air and noise pollution.
  • All it takes is the effort of one person to make a difference to the environment such as walking to the store instead of having one’s parents drive them down the street.
  • Some who were already interested in environmental justice felt more equipped with knowledge and confidence to take leadership roles among their peers. One participant intends to start an Environmental Justice club at her school.

Prior to the last day of the program, the participants were visited by Dr. Joseph Lyou, President and CEO of the Coalition for Clean Air and board member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District.  Dr. Lyou spoke about the role of community organizations and future opportunities for the students.

The Environmental Justice Summer Institute program is a partnership of USC Environmental Health,
Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance (APIOPA), From Lot to Spot (FLTS), and Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI). Learn more about the institute in these blog posts and Resource Page:
Environmental Justice Summer Institute: Youth Workshops
Youth Pollution Monitoring Activities across the Southland
Teaching Environmental Justice through Building Model Cities

USC Environmental Health gratefully thanks the NIEHS, U.S. EPA, The Kresge Foundation and The California Wellness Foundation for their combined support which has allowed the Centers’ participation in these efforts to educate youth about air pollution.

by Wendy Gutschow

Youth Pollution Monitoring Activities across the Southland

In communities around the Southland this summer and past spring, students have been learning about air pollution and doing their own hands-on monitoring. These areas included Alhambra, Hacienda Heights, Boyle Heights, Lennox, Inglewood, and more. Outreach Program coordinator Carla Truax visited several high schools and community organizations to give a presentation on “Air Pollution 101,” USC’s latest scientific research findings, and demonstrate air monitoring equipment for the students. The students then came up with creative monitoring projects of their own.

At Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra, the students were part of a youth team from a group called Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ). After monitoring around their school, which is located adjacent to the I-10 Freeway, the students then presented their research at a “Family Empowerment Festival” organized by AAAJ at Cal State Los Angeles in May.

Air pollution is measured on a overpass of the 10 freeway near Mark Keppel High School.

Last year, another group of students from Mark Keppel High School did a monitoring project with USC, interviewed experts, and created this video:

At Glen A. Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights, students in the Advanced Environmental Studies class learned about the health risks of exposure to air pollution, and how to assess the numbers of ultrafine particles near their school using monitoring devices.  They also learned about the studies conducted by the environmental health sciences centers based at USC about the health effects of living or going to school near a busy freeway. Wilson High is located just a few feet from the 60 Freeway. These high school visits were organized by partner organization Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance.

Legacy L.A. is a non-profit organization focused on youth and leadership development which offers academic support to students in Boyle Heights (on the East side of LA), in particular to students who live at Ramona Gardens. After a training session by USC on the health effects of air pollution, the youth talked about some critical issues they are working on: access to healthy food, environmental justice, and safe walkable streets in their community. The group also had questions about creating a buffer zone to help mitigate the effects of traffic emissions from the freeway that borders their housing development and a newly constructed playground. Using what they had learned, the youth developed an action plan for addressing the pollution issues in their community and presented it at a town hall meeting for key policy and decision makers in June. The meeting was covered by Boyle Heights Beat.

Environmental Justice Summer Institute (EJSI) is a program focused on educating, engaging, and empowering youth to be environmental health leaders in their neighborhoods of Inglewood, Hawthorne, and Lennox. The youth developed hands-on experience with two days of ultrafine particle pollution and noise monitoring at 14 locations around their neighborhoods. The students chose locations for monitoring and mapped them before setting out for their field work. The selected locations included places they live, learn, and hang out, such as parks, schools, and homes.  These areas are in the flyover path for jets landing at LAX airport.

Students participating in the EJSI wrote about their monitoring experiences:

“As we spent two sessions going around our community measuring pollution, the thought that kept stirring in my mind was that there is not much being done to keep our homes safe. I only wonder how our community will be if we do not take action, so I think people should be more aware of the dangers around them.” –Vanessa Sanchez

Prior to measuring pollution, students mapped healthy and unhealthy spaces in their communities to identify where they wanted to take pollution measurements.

A sound level meter is used to measure the number of decibels from the airplane.

“While doing the air and noise pollution, I was surprised a few times by the measurement and the locations. I never thought our communities were that polluted by these moving engines. What surprised me more was the bus pollution measurement was quite low. But some locations were heavily polluted and can have a negative effect on people’s health.” –Khanh Nguyen

“My emotion about knowing the air pollution was “surprise!” because I didn’t know that our air was not as clean as it should be. For example the beach has 4,000 pt/cc [number of particles per cubic centimeter] of ultrafine particles on average. I asked myself why doesn’t the city enjoy that kind of healthy air? All the data gathered concerned me about the environment and it made me see that we have a problem.” –Abigail Diaz
[Note: the average levels of ultrafine particles in Lennox and Inglewood was 45,000 pt/cc.]

A P-Trak monitor is used to measure the ultrafine particles.

“My thoughts and emotions weren’t thrilled because I was expecting to get the result that we got because I know the community. The only one I was surprised was at the beach because it was really low. It was 2,000-6,000 (pt/cc).” –Eder Juarez

The Environmental Justice Summer Institute program is a partnership of USC Environmental Health, Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance (APIOPA), From Lot to Spot (FLTS), and Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI). Learn more about the institute in this post.

The EJSI’s next project is creating a student-produced video, so stay tuned!

USC Environmental Health gratefully thanks the NIEHS, U.S. EPA, The Kresge Foundation and The
California Wellness Foundation for their combined support which has allowed the Centers’ participation in these efforts to educate youth about air pollution.

Environmental Justice Summer Institute: Youth Workshops

Four Southern California groups are excited to announce a new partnership to jointly sponsor an inaugural Environmental Justice Summer Institute (EJSI):

  • USC Environmental Health
  • Asian and Pacific Islander Obesity Prevention Alliance (APIOPA)
  • From Lot to Spot (FLTS)
  • Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI)

This five week, 14-session summer program will begin on June 26, 2014. ESJI was created to engage a diverse group of 15 local high school youth from Lennox, Hawthorne and Inglewood, around environmental health and environmental justice issues.

This EJSI curriculum is focused on educating, engaging, and empowering the youth to be agents of change in their own neighborhoods.

Educate: Youth will learn about environmental justice and its disproportionate impact on people of color communities through workshops, presentations, and community tours.

Engage: Youth will participate in an interactive workshop with urban planner James Rojas and conduct on-the-ground monitoring and mapping.  With partner USC the youth will develop hands-on experience to not only map out and identify highly polluted locations in their own neighborhoods, but to also have an opportunity to use air and noise monitoring equipment to track pollution levels.

Empower: Throughout the program, the youth will work with Digital Rain Factory on digital storytelling to educate and engage their communities around the environmental concerns they have. The digital stories they create will also be used to advocate to their local elected officials, for changes they identify are needed through their summer program.

Curriculum to be covered:

  • Researching environmental justice in our community
  • Becoming environmental justice youth leaders
  • Learning how to make videos for a cause
  • Monitoring air and noise levels
  • Informing public policy 101: The low down on our local policies
  • Being a dynamic speaker
  • Engaging the Community

Stay tuned for more exciting details of this pilot program! Search #EJSIFellows on Twitter to keep up on the latest developments, photos and more.

Learn more about the institute in these blog posts and Resource Page:
Environmental Justice Summer Institute: Youth Workshops
Youth Pollution Monitoring Activities across the Southland
Teaching Environmental Justice through Building Model Cities

The EJSI is partially supported by USC’s Children’s Environmental Health Center, which is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences  and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Additional support for staff participation is provided by grants from the Kresge Foundation and the California Wellness Foundation.

Environmental Justice Summer Institute partner organizations on Twitter:
@USC_EH_Outreach
@fightAPIobesity
@SJLI_CA
@fromlottospot