Youth Environmental Justice Leaders Shine with HII!

In the Fall of 2012, the Human Impacts Institute (HII) worked with 10th graders from around the city in exploring social justice, personal responsibility, and the environment. The class was sponsored by the Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF), a “comprehensive, non-profit supplemental education and youth development organization that helps motivated students develop the intellectual curiosity, academic ability, social values, and personal resiliency they need to ensure success in school, career, and life.”In the semester-long program developed by HII called “There’s No Justice in Pollution: Exploring Environment, Equity, and Social Impact,” students explored issues of corporate social responsibility, waste, water, air, food and workers rights, and green space. Over the weeks, students also explored numerous leadership skills such as: blogging, community interviews, personal expression, and developing outreach material.

Take a look at the full HII Curriculum>>

In the class, students explored concepts surrounding systemic equality, human rights, and economic disparity within and around their community in order to develop a greater social conscience. When the class first began, general concepts of social justice were discussed, where students asked each other on video: What is equity? How do you define “community”? How does the “environment” impact me?

See student personal interview responses on their FIRST DAY of class>>

As students delved into specific topics when they watched videos on the effects of certain countries’ decisions on the poorest people in those countries. Working in small groups, students became “experts” in their topics and did research, SWOT analyses, developed interview questions, and made a final outreach campaign around what they thought was most important about their issues.Check out our HEAF Youth Environmental Leaders Community Interviews Here>>Read the blogs and see the community campaigns of our Youth Leaders Here>>

As our Youth Environmental Leaders begin thinking about their future careers, these skills will be important in the futures of these teenagers as they make connections, discover injustice, and think through ways to effectively communicate them. The last session of 2012 brought together amazing NYC youth justice leaders from the HII/HEAF program and Global Kids to share ideas on youth’s role in shaping a sustainable and equitable future. Global Kids youth leaders wowed us with their campaign ideas for 2013 on addressing climate justice, which HEAF youth shared their views on local environmental justice issues. Take a look at our youths’ final presentations>>

The HII Crew are inspired by our 2012 students, who demonstrated leadership throughout the class, as well as creative problem-solving and great collaboration with other students. The Human Impacts Institute is excited to continue our educational partnership with HEAF in 2013. Stay tuned for our students’ final thoughts on environmental justice, community and the environment!

By Rachana Patel, Environmental Education Intern and Tara DePorte, Founder and Executive Director, Human Impacts Institute

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