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Building Bridges


Eboni Haynes: Bridge Builder

Eboni HaynesEboni HaynesI have always been really secure in two areas of my life, medicine being an African American woman and being from Texas. I never thought that there would be a moment where my security would feel disrupted, ed but through working as an environmental educator, adiposity I have had the opportunity to think deeper about my identity in both of these areas.

Working at the Ed Center opened up a whole new world for me. Being that I am a Texas native, my knowledge of recycling is little to none. Also, in the environmental field, almost no one looks like me, and more often than not, I am afraid that my lack of knowledge would add to stereotypical ideas about African Americans.

I felt stuck in the middle, trying to figure out how to bridge my past to this new world, and  I found myself full of emotion, seesawing between teaching and learning, but never feeling that I am able to do both.

Nevertheless, although I may not look like my coworkers or share their California Green upbringing, many of the students that come here look as I do. I wondered about these students and if they had received a California green upbringing or did race and socioeconomic background hinder it. For some reason I felt that it had. It is possibly a gut feeling; a personal connection with these kids.

That thought birthed in me the idea that I could be an example of change, that students who come to us could feel known and secure in this space, whether that be in terms of race, culture, or socioeconomic background.

A bridge is a structure that is "stuck" in between two places. Whether stretching over valleys, oceans, or highways, the purpose of a bridge is to connect and sustain. Once, I had to cross a flimsy bridge swaying over rushing water in the middle of an Island in the Philippines.

I was afraid, but my friends and I made the trek over the long loose bridge because we knew that the person waiting for us had prepared something special. She wanted to share with us a bit of her life –she wanted to be known. On the way home, we had to cross that same bridge again, but this time we were taking something back with us: the experience of having been known in an unfamiliar place.

I want to be a bridge not just for the convenient tool of connection but also in order to share what I have learned by being stuck between two worlds. I have yet to figure out my destiny in all of this, but I know that I have learned things that will influence my own family someday.


Eboni Haynes is an Environmental Education Associate at the iRecycle@School Education Center.