In southwest Fresno, California, many young people grow up breathing diesel fumes from trucks that drive through the neighborhood each day. They play near industrial facilities. And on hot days, they sweat on sidewalks with little shade.
So one organization is working to make sure young people are engaged in their community’s plans to address environmental problems.
“Involving young people in this process, it’s a matter of dignity. … They are the experts on their own lived experience and they have a viewpoint that is invaluable,” says Kato Prado of the Youth Leadership Institute in Fresno.
The institute runs a year-long program to teach young Fresnans about environmental issues.
Participants learn about the steps Fresno is taking to limit and adapt to climate change — like planting gardens and trees, adding electric vehicle chargers, and installing solar panels on affordable housing.
And they develop skills in public speaking and community engagement so they’re prepared to advocate for solutions.
“Youth are often put out to the margins when it comes to decision making and decisions that directly affect their lives,” Prado says. “But everyone should have the power and resources to make decisions necessary for their communities to thrive.”
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media