The Youth Air Quality Task Force meeting over Zoom
Our New Voices Are Rising program, which helps youth from underserved communities gain skills and experience in civic engagement, is introducing a new program this fall. Titled the Youth Air Quality Task Force, the program takes place over 6 weeks and focuses on the issue areas of air quality, health risks, and utility advocacy which directly impact our New Voices students. The task force offers our students an opportunity to discover the aspects of clean-air advocacy that are most important to them.
The goal of the Youth Air Quality Task Force program is to give youth the chance to bring attention and awareness to their communities on air quality and energy injustices. These problem areas are particularly salient to our New Voices students as many of them live in designated ‘priority communities’ marked by high levels of air pollution. Communities labeled by the government as “AB 617 ” receive funding to mitigate air quality issues and health problems through air protection plans. Despite living in polluted areas, a number of communities in the Bay Area have yet to be classified as AB 617 and have thereby been withheld government funding to tackle the problem.
AB617 is a California State Assembly Bill, signed into law in 2017, designed to promote more community participation in reducing the levels of and exposure to air pollution in order to improve public health. The bill tasks the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and local air districts to protect neighborhoods that are disproportionately impacted by air pollution. The local air districts recommend certain areas to be designated as ‘priority communities,’ and then work with these communities to develop an air protection plan. CARB oversees this process, approving and implementing the plans.
The Air Quality Task Force offers our students an opportunity to discover the aspects of clean-air advocacy that are most important to them. The youth and program leaders meet over the course of six weeks to learn about local problems and explore possible solutions through a project of their choosing.
Spearheading the Task Force is our Youth Coordinator, Mars, and our interim Program Manager, Jessica Tovar, from Local Clean Energy Alliance. We are confident that Mars’s strong foundation with the New Voices students combined with Jessica’s expertise on energy-related issues will make the Youth Air Quality Task Force a success.
At the end of the 6-week program, the students will present projects that encompass what they learned and wish to relay to their communities. We cannot wait to see what the students come up with.