USC Environmental Health Centers

Current news, events and research projects of the Environmental Health Centers based at USC

August 16, 2018

A Day in the Life program showcases youth stories and air pollution monitoring

USC Environmental Health
South Central Youth Leadership Coalition air monitoring in front of AllenCo drilling site.

“A Day in the Life” is a community-based media project that brings visibility to the stories of youth of color living and organizing in four Los Angeles communities that experience a variety of environmental & pollution impacts. Participants used multimedia to document what they see and experience during the course of their day while monitoring air pollution in each of their respective communities.

Youth In Action members of Communities for a Better Environment do an air monitoring activity on Pacific Ave. in Huntington Park, CA.

Launched in the summer of 2017, “A Day in the Life” was developed as part of a collaboration with USC and with community-based organizations with youth memberships. With a goal to increase environmental health literacy, collect community owned data, and promote awareness about exposures to pollution at the neighborhood level in environmental justice, youth participated in a series of workshops. In these workshops participants learned about air pollution, particulate matter <2.5 µg/m, sources of pollution and the impacts on health. Participants were trained to use AirBeams, low-cost portable air monitoring devices, to record the air pollution along their daily routes of travel from their homes to school and around their communities. In collaboration with Sandy Navarro of LA Grit Media, students also participated in a Storytelling for Social Change workshop, where they learned the skills needed to capture and craft a story, such as story boarding, framing shots, and becoming familiar with photo and video editing tools.

Sandy Navarro and Angelica Ramos facilitating Storytelling for Social Change workshop at Communities for a Better Environment.

“A Day in the Life” program included a total of seventeen high school students from high schools throughout Los Angeles. Eight students presented their final projects at the #LAYouth4EJ Forum. Each student described the routes of their daily lives that they chose to document the air pollution with the AirBeam sensors, why they decided to choose the route, what stood out along their route, and why they decided to participate in “A Day in the Life” program.

“A Day in the Life” panelists at the #LAYouth4EJ forum (and their ages) (L-R): Beatriz Carrillo 15, Ashley Solorio 17, Viridiana Preciado 16, Angel Banuelos 17, Isabel Alvarenga 17, Ashley Lazaro 17, Katherine Velasques 16 and Paul Yeh 18.

Katherine Velasques from South Central Youth Leadership Coalition shared her route from home to school, a walk that she has been taking everyday since she was in the 8th grade. Throughout this walk she is exposed to different sources of pollution like the I-110 freeway. “What stood out in my walk is that no one really minds that the freeway is there, even with Allenco Co., no one really questions what is behind the gates unless they know about it. I want people to know what is going on in our community, they deserve to know and take part in what we are doing to stop oil drilling,” she said. A common theme in each presentation was a sense that participants have normalized sources of pollution in their environment.

Ashley Lazaro from South Central Youth Leadership Coalition said, “I decided to join this project because I was able to describe my story and show myself how affected I am by pollution. It is important to me because I want to share my story to open the eyes of others. Where I live, not a lot of people know there is an oil drilling site. People don’t question their surrounding, they should know it is bad for their health.”

This program had representation from communities throughout Los Angeles including Wilmington, South East LA, South Central LA and Alhambra/Monterey Park. The #LAYouth4EJ Forum on June 30th, 2018 hosted by USC Environmental Health Centers, Community Engagement Program on Health and Environment, served as a space for participants to share their final stories, some participants which met for the first time had the opportunity to also learn from other youth experiences. Even with each unique story, the similarities between environmental justice communities are clear. The power of the youth organizing across Los Angeles is a testament to the resiliency that exists in communities amidst the challenges, as they will continue to pave the way forward.

USC would like to thank all participating organizations, mentors, and interns for their efforts in making this program possible with special thanks to the youth who shared their stories and continue the fight for environmental health and justice.

A Day in the Life partners and participating organizations include:

LA Grit Media
Communities for a Better Environment
South Central Youth Leadership Coalition
Promoting Youth Advocacy club at Mark Keppel High School, Alhambra/ APIFM

The panel discussion featuring A Day in the Life participants is available on Facebook: 

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