Despite the fact that there's often so many things stacked against kids growing up in the inner-city, there's one young eco-hero that's defying the odds and making an incredible difference while helping to shed a bit of light on how successful students can be at affecting change in their own neighborhoods.
Because when Juan Hernandez recently moved to West Oakland from Bakersfield, California and found his asthma flaring up to the point where he could no longer engage in his favorite sport, running, he decided to step up and do something about it.
As Juan puts it, "I was huffing and puffing, but I thought, It's my own personal problem." But while doing a school assignment he soon discovered otherwise. As his environmental-law teacher had sent him and a group of classmates on a "toxic tour" of their neighborhood, asking them to write down what they smelled and how it made them feel.
Turns out that particular section of West Oakland has the second highest rate of asthma in the city, and as he passed a scrap-metal recycling plant and aluminum smelter that "smelled nasty," it was a bit of an "aha" moment: Telling himself that "I'm living in this place that has some of the worst pollution in all of Oakland, and I gotta do something about it."
And so with help from the state, the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment and Global Community Monitor, Hernandez and his classmates tested the air outside their school and found elevated levels of heavy metals, including lead and nickel. And took the brilliant step of putting together a student run news conference outside their school to announce their findings. The event ultimately drew news coverage and grabbed the attention of neighbors, city-council members, and even the scrap plant, which has since cleaned up metal debris from the area.
So we tip our cap to his efforts, and certainly look forward to hearing more from Juan and others like him in the future.
Image Credit: Newsweek
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