Catch Up with the New Voices Summer Academy Oakland Youth Talk Air Quality

Catch Up with the New Voices Summer Academy

Our virtual 2020 Summer Academy has already come to a close! Our 18 incredible youth leaders have been learning about everything from environmental justice and energy, to food justice, and air quality. And they have put that newfound knowledge into practice with hands-on at-home experiments, virtual field trips and talks with guest speakers, and virtual Externships with local nonprofits! We caught up with one of this year’s Academy participants, Trinity, to get a peek inside the program:

Trinity learned a lot from the program’s week three theme, Air Quality in our Community. She shared, “There are many people in the Oakland community who have asthma, heart disease, and cancer from living with polluted air,” and these health conditions make other things, like the COVID-19 pandemic, worse. She also explained that pollution from trucks, the Port of Oakland, freeways, and more are making the air worse for Oakland communities. And, “during our third week of the [New Voices 2020 Summer] Academy, we talked about how the air quality we breathe is different, depending on what parts of Oakland we live in. And it is really bad near the freeways and other industrial sites.” Trinity made the connection that the communities that have been least invested in, and that are seen as unsafe, are also suffering from the worst air quality.

New Voices Testing Air QualityIn the program, the students have also done hands-on experiments to bring learning into action. For example, the students participated in an air quality monitoring activity (see photo on left), where they “took a piece of paper and spread petroleum jelly on it. Then, we taped the paper in the front of our homes and recorded all the particles of air pollution caught by the piece of paper.This experiment showed them a visual representation of the pollution in their neighborhood — and the idea for the activity came from a student!

When Trinity talked to Ada, another participant in the program, Ada shared that the Air Quality week “helped open up our eyes. I learned that depending on where you live, you are at a higher risk of poor air quality, and that low-income people have the worst air quality in Oakland.”

Trinity believes, “This is an important issue we need to focus on. While being in this program, we have gotten to learn more about what’s happening in our local environment.” 

Thanks, Trinity and Ada, for sharing what you and the other Summer Academy participants have been working on! It is great to see how the Summer Academy helps young people in Oakland understand the issues impacting their family and community. And we are so happy to support youth in finding the power in their voices to speak out about these issues!


This discussion with Trinity and Ada was an assignment for Trinity’s Externship with the Rose Foundation’s Communications Team.

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