Mandela High School hosts a career academy focused on law, public service and environmental justice. The school strives to empower students to recognize, confront and solve challenges on campus and in the community through direct service projects and advocacy for policies to improve systems. As part of a campus beautification campaign, the students installed a garden on the mostly paved campus- according to one teacher, "Our garden is flourishing, and our hopes are growing too!"
~ Republished from EarthTeam ~
Kim is the Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper and is a published fiction and news writer. Her work has appeared in the Oaktown Teen Times, no rx the Green and Gold, 826 Quarterly, and EarthTeam’s the Green News. Kim gives back to the community through volunteering at the school library and tutoring children at 826 Valencia.
Jack, who has interned at the Oakland Tribune, is hoping to major in political science and utilize her skills to help her low-income community. Her book review, “Can Vampires Build Your SAT Score?” won third place in the 2010 Northern California Press Women High School Journalism Contest.
Kim and Jack created the Green News’ debate column. Click here to read their latest debate.
“The environment is an important subject, and I want people to be educated about the issues we are facing today. Hopefully the debate column will shine light on some of those topics and show people different view points.” – Kim Mejia-Cuellar
“I’m thrilled that people read my work, especially the debate column. The Green News is a respected website, and being part of it is such an honor. I look forward to providing my work to the site and helping it grow.” – Gloria “Jack” Mejia-Cuellar
~ Republished from EarthTeam ~
Journalism, a healthy diet and the environment - those are three things journalism teacher Lisa Shafer has emphasized at Fremont High School's Media Academy in Oakland, Calif. Shafer has been involved with EarthTeam since the summer of 2009.
She believes the best way to solve current environmental problems is by empowering young people to take charge in improving their community and the environment as a whole. “It’s important for all of us to be aware and do what we can to repair the damage we’ve done,” said Shafer. “Kids that live in urban areas are the victims of everything that’s wrong with the environment. It’s magnified for them, whether it’s asthma or blight. They would benefit from getting involved and helping to make their environment better.”
For the last two years Shafer’s journalism students have designed and put together the Green News Annual Anthology (Tanya Castro, 2010 and Tiffany Martin, 2011). “Both girls were very independent,” said Shafer. “It was really cool to see students take on a project for a client. Both girls learned a lot from the projects.” Additionally, Kim and Gloria Mejia-Cuellar are Green News monthly contributors and members of the Student Editorial Board.
At school, Shafer revived the school garden which was neglected during the summer. Shafer led her sixth period freshmen to get involved with the garden, replacing dying plants and using the harvest to cook healthy meals. “I was a total fan of the garden since I got to Media. It’s incredible. I watched it die in the summer and I was like oh my gosh, this cannot happen,” said Shafer. “I wrote a grant and hired somebody. We’re doing this wellness project with the freshmen about healthy food so it only made sense to educate them on how to grow food.”
Shafer has worked as a reporter for the Contra Costa Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and the Blade (Toledo, Ohio). She holds a masters degree in journalism from the University of Michigan and a bachelors degree in English Composition from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.
Salvador Mateo and Julio Madrigal were honored at the Bay Area Schools Environmental Conference as the Green Star Outstanding Students of the year. They each received a recycled glass plate engraved in their names from the conference organizers at the City of San Jose who noted the following achievements while presenting the award:
Salvador Mateo and Julio Madrigal from Mandela High School's graduating class of 2011 are working to overcome the obstacles of environmental injustice in their community. Last summer Salvador and Julio both interned at the Rose Foundation with Jill Ratner to learn more about the sources and effects of environmental racism.
They helped establish a school community garden from reuse materials, won a grant to start their own business, and are producing a video for The 4th annual Bay Area Social Issues Documentary Film Contest in an effort to win support and funding to help them on their path to college.
They now sell the vegetables that are grown in the Mandela garden at a convenient price to help students and community members enjoy healthy organic food, without having to go to the liquor store or buying canned goods.
Both maintain 3.5+GPAs and belong to Youth and Government sponsored by the YMCA where they are working to pass a Green Bill in the California Youth and Government Senate to help California reduce its fossil fuel emissions.
With funding from a Youth Venture program grant, they will launched a social enterprise in March to build raised garden beds for low income families that cannot afford to eat healthy. The beds aren't be free, but they are sold at a price that the families can afford and include training in gardening and composting. Salvador and Julio are trying to make a change in their community and are willing to help families help themselves.
Congratulations to Julio, Salvador and the team at Mandela!
Most people have heard or used the slang, "Eat grub" as an off-hand reference to chowing down on food. Yet "EAT GRUB" has a much greater significance to Salvador Mateo and classmate/friend Julio Madrigal, who transformed the simple phrase into "Enhancing Access To Gardens and Revoluntionizing Urban Backyards", as their joint social entrepreneurship venture. Under the mentorship of Planting Justice co-founders Haleh Zandi and Gavin Raders, and alongside their fellow SLWRP peers, Sal and Julio successfully built a raised, annual, organic vegetable garden and planted 10 fruit trees at Mandela HS - a first for the urban campus. The team took their work and new found skills one step further, though, by participating in Ashoka Youth Venture's 10 week food justice program and developing a business enterprise that will give back to their East Oakland community: "The vision of EAT GRUB is to eliminate community food deserts in Oakland. Our mission is to establish a greener community and provide connections to the Earth and our ancestors by enhancing the accessibility of healthy foods through building raised garden beds for low-income families in Oakland... This issue is important to us because food is a human right, people should be able to access it without a problem but in this world it's hard to do."
Sal and Julio's work was deeply inspired by their school, their friends, and their own food-related challenges growing up. Sal was raised in a home where his mother had to work two jobs to support her children, after her husband was deported back to Mexico. Exhausted by her long hours, she didn't have much energy leftover to cook - nor did the family have much money to take the bus to a Farmer Joe's or other good grocery store with ample produce. And so the family relied on what was available - convenience stores, fast food - until the mother was later deported herself. Although Julio grew up in a family that had better access to fruits and vegetables, they were conventionally grown ones, never organic. He was shocked and outraged when he learned the chemical processes by which most agriculture in the U.S. is grown - and the harmful effects it can have on people's health, even when they're eating "fresh" produce. Both of these stories fueled the team to learning everything they could from Planting Justice about organic gardening, as well as about environmental racism and food deserts from their own research; the idea for EAT GRUB was born.
EAT GRUB's venture is to build annual, organic vegetable gardens for full-paying clients in their community, in order to provide the same service, at no charge, to low-income families. Having completed an extensive survey of many families and individuals within their community about access to food and eating habits, Sal and Julio plan to start building free gardens for those who are farthest from healthy, well-stocked grocery stores. "Our venture will benefit the community by bringing gardens to the backyards of families who don't have access to healthy foods in their neighborhoods. This will reduce diet-related diseases such as type II diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. This will also allow people to save money at the grocery store and in transportation costs. This venture will further reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the community by reducing the use of pesticides and fossil fuels in the transportation of food."
On Sunday, March 27, 2011, Sal and Julio presented the final draft of their venture to an audience of fellow Ashoka participants, local supporters, and an extensive panel of youth activists, experts in food justice, and social entrepreneurs at The David Brower Center, in Berkeley. Dressed smartly in business suits, Sal and Julio spoke about their work with great confidence, clarity, and eloquence. Of the ten groups who presented at Ashoka's Community Panel that day, EAT GRUB was one of two who were unconditionally awarded $1,000 in seed money (other teams were awarded the same seed money, with conditions). "I'm so proud of them!" beamed their SLWRP teacher, Pam Zimmerman. "They've worked so hard for this." Other Mandela teachers, including the Principal, Robin Glover, were also in attendance, and EVERYONE was grinning ear to ear :)
As for Sal and Julio - EarthTeam was able to catch up with them the following day, at Mandela, and ask about their spirits: "Glowing," Sal reported. Both he and Julio are busily training interns to assist them with their venture, especially as both will be attending college come the fall. Julio was accepted into St Mary's College, to focus on International Studies, while Sal plans to stay a little more local by attending community college and focusing on his gardens. SLWRP and EarthTeam are both extremely proud of their work, and we wish them the very best in all of their future endeavors and successes!