NEW PUBLICATION: Community engaged participatory youth air monitoring program in urban Los Angeles “A Day in the Life”

The Community Engagement Program on Health and the Environment team of Wendy Gutschow and Jill Johnston, along with partners Zully Juarez (prospective UCLA MURP graduate in 2020), Sandy Navarro (LA Grit Media), Ashley Hernandez (Communities for a Better Environment) have published an article in IJERPH about the program they implemented that incorporated air monitoring and storytelling with youth in environmental justice organizations around the Los Angeles area.

A Day in the Life participants at Communities for a Better Environment learn about air monitoring using AirBeams.
A Day in the Life participants at South Central Youth Leadership Coalition monitor the air front of the AllenCo oil drilling site in South Los Angeles.

From the article:

Air pollution in Southern California does not impact all communities equally; communities of color are disproportionately burdened by poor air quality and more likely to live near industrial facilities and freeways. Government regulatory monitors do not have the spatial resolution to provide air quality information at the neighborhood or personal scale. We describe the A Day in the Life program, an approach to participatory air monitoring that engages youth in collecting data that they can then analyze and use to take action. Academics partnered with Los Angeles-based youth environmental justice organizations to combine personal air monitoring, participatory science, and digital storytelling to build capacity to address local air quality issues. Eighteen youth participants from four different neighborhoods wore portable personal PM2.5 (fine particles <2.5 µm in diameter) monitors for a day in each of their respective communities, documenting and mapping their exposure to PM2.5 during their daily routine. Air monitoring was coupled with photography and videos to document what they experienced over the course of their day. The PM2.5 exposure during the day for participants averaged 10.7 µg/m3, although the range stretched from <1 to 180 µg/m3. One-third of all measurements were taken <300 m from a freeway. Overall, we demonstrate a method to increase local youth-centered understanding of personal exposures, pollution sources, and vulnerability to air quality.

“I enjoyed doing this project because it was a lot of new information for me that directly impacts me as a community member, as well as learning about the way particulate matter affects our daily lives. With all of this new information, I want to educate my community on how harmful these particulates are, and how change should begin with personal choices people make throughout their day.”—CBE Youth, Huntington Park, CA.

To read more of how this program was implemented and the work that the youth, community organizers and staff put into making this happen, click through to read and download the full article here. Read more about the program on the Day in the Life program page here.  

Participants in the Day in the Life program since its inception in 2017 include:

LA Grit Media, South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, Communities for a Better Environment, Promoting Youth Advocacy, and Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement, and Pacoima Beautiful.

The article is open access, available free of change to anyone who would like to download it.

Jill E. Johnston, Zully Juarez, Sandy Navarro, Ashley Hernandez, and Wendy Gutschow. (2020) “Youth Engaged Participatory Air Monitoring: A ‘Day in the Life’ in Urban Environmental Justice Communities.” Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 17(1), 93; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17010093

This work was funded, in part, by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (5P30ES007048 and P01ES022845) and the Environmental Protection Agency (83544101).

“A Day in the Life” program starts its second cohort with youth members of Pacoima Beautiful

On April 25, USC Community Engagement staff along with community partner Sandy Navarro from LA Grit Media began A Day in the Life program with youth from Pacoima Beautiful. The training kicked off the program during which youth from Pacoima will engage in community based air monitoring and storytelling through digital media. For more information on A Day in the Life click here.

Air pollution and air monitoring training during the Day in the Life workshop with youth members of Pacoima Beautiful.
Sandy Navarro of LA Grit Media presents her Storytelling for Social Change workshop during the training at Pacoima Beautiful.

“A Day in the Life” youth program participants present at national conference

In March 2019, youth participants from the Los Angeles communities of South LA and Wilmington, along with youth organizers from their respective communities and USC Environmental Health staff presented at the annual Citizen Science Conference, held this year in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The group presented during a workshop comprised of groups from around the country: Building Collaboration and Ensuring Justice in Community-Based Participatory Research: Lessons Learned from California, South Carolina, and Michigan.

The two youth who presented have shared the following reflections about their experience presenting and attending the conference:

Ashley Lazaro, 12th grade, South Central Youth Leadership Coalition

The highlight of my trip was having the opportunity to share my story with others and being able to connect with others that were dealing with similar situations. This trip taught me to be more assertive and to stand up for myself. I learned to not feel inferior or intimidated by anyone and that my voice as a youth is powerful.

To me citizen science means science or research that is conducted by the community itself. However, I do wish it was called people’s science to be more inclusive to my immigrant community.  Citizen science gives me the opportunity to defend myself. Taking the research into my own hands gives me and my community power against big industries who try to make us feel inferior.

In the future I hope that the Day in the Life project can expand to more youth in the community. It was a helpful and fun project. Next time, people can journal their journey or it can be expanded to a week in the life. 

Ashley Lazaro, presenting at the Citizen Science Conference.

Viridia Preciado, 12th grade, Communities for a Better Environment

The highlight of my trip was exploring a new place and exploring all it had to offer. What I took away from this trip was understanding that not only my community is going through all of this environmental racism, but others around the world are going through similar things. If parts of my community have came together to fight for environmental justice, why can’t the whole world do that to get what was once stolen from us. The right to clean air, water, soil, and so much more. 

What citizen science means to me is the work and research done by individuals in our community to make that change and present it back to others to inform them. CBE may not use the term citizen science to describe our work, but it connects with our work because the community is really the ones who do all the work to mark a change in this world. 

It would be great to involve more people to really experience this great program and to fully understand what it’s like to be in their community.

Viridiana Preciado presenting at the Citizen Science conference.
Continue reading ““A Day in the Life” youth program participants present at national conference”

Youth from across Los Angeles gather for LA Youth for Environmental Justice Forum

On Saturday June 30th 2018, USC Environmental Health Centers, Community Engagement Program on Health and Environment, hosted the Los Angeles Youth for Environmental Justice (#LAYouth4EJ) Forum to highlight and center the work of youth in the forefront of the environmental justice movement. The forum celebrated young people who are visioning and organizing for safe, healthy and just communities where we can all play, study, live and thrive!

Presenters at the #LAYouth4EJ Forum 2018

The forum brought together over thirty-five youth organizers from six different neighborhoods addressing Los Angeles most pressing environmental health issues.

Participants came from South Central Los Angeles, Alhambra, South East LA and the Harbor area, where they are organizing to protect the health and safety of their communities on the frontlines of the dangers of exposure to environmental hazards. Continue reading “Youth from across Los Angeles gather for LA Youth for Environmental Justice Forum”

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

“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. Continue reading “A Day in the Life program showcases youth stories and air pollution monitoring”