New Voices Are Rising seeks to increase civic participation within under-represented communities, increase young people’s commitment to environmental justice, and reduce air and water pollution that severely impact both human health and the health of the San Francisco Bay. The program helps young people gain the skills and experience in civic engagement that they need to begin to tackle the problems – including environmental health problems – that disproportionately impact their communities.
Two to four students from the Summer Institute are recruited to become New Voices Are Rising Fellows during the school year, giving them the opportunity to pursue environmental justice work in greater depth. The students use the skills they learned and the leadership potential they developed, applying it to community capacity-building and outreach projects with New Voices and program partners focused on reducing toxic exposure, addressing climate change, and increasing competency in low-income communities and communities of color to meaningfully engage in environmental decision-making.
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Our students’ learning journey this summer has taken them to the American River, the Richmond refinery communities, and the EBMUD West Oakland wastewater treatment plant. Students also planted trees to provide shade for a local nursery school, met with legislators in Sacramento, and completed externships to gain work experiences with local environmental organizations.
Our students are currently learning about energy and water policy. Last Friday, our students visited Lake Pardee, the reservoir that houses Oakland’s drinking water. There they went inside the reservoir’s dam, toured a hydroelectric powerhouse and watched the dam operators open a sluice gate.
n June 26, we were happy to welcome our students for the first day of the Summer Climate Justice Youth Leadership Academy! On Wednesday our students toured the EcoCenter and on Firday they went on an environmental justice tour of Modesto lead by Friends of the River and the Tuolumne River Trust.
On June 1, New Voices student-interns joined local youth and visited Phil Tagami’s office in downtown Oakland to ask why he won’t drop his lawsuit against the city’s ban on coal exports. The students wore elf hats saying “it’s Christmas in June, don’t give the kids coal.”
With pollution, dams and climate change altering the face of our watersheds, our rivers are starting to look less and less familiar. On River Day, May 3, our New Voices youth interns went to lobby at the California State Assembly for bills AB 1667, 1668 and 1669 to protect water in California. These three bills together increase agricultural water efficiency, help communities prepare for drought years, and set standards for urban water conservation.
Thank you to our institutional program funders, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the California EPA, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, and the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth.