Two seniors from Mandela High School's graduating class of 2011 are working to overcome the obstacles of environmental racism in their community. Salvador Mateo and Julio Madrigal have helped build the school's garden with many reuse materials, have won a grant to start their own business, and are currently working on a video clip that will be entered in 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.
These students don't seem to give up. They are dedicated to their work, at school and in the community. In addition to maintaining a better than a 3.5 GPA in school, both are part of Youth and Government group sponsored by the YMCA. Through Youth and Government, they are trying to pass a Green Bill in the California Youth and Government Senate that Salvador wrote to help California reduce its fossil fuel emissions.
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.
Since they came back to school they have done everything they can to help their community and school. The garden built at the school was a success thanks to the school's SLWRP team and Planting Justice, and organization dedicated to expanding urban access to healthy food. Salvador and Julio are now selling the vegetables that are grown in the Mandela garden at a convenient price to try and help students and community members enjoy a healthy organic meal, without having to go to the liquor store and buying canned goods.
With funding from the Youth Venture program grant, Salvador and Julio plan to fully launch their social enterprise business in March. They will build raised garden beds for low income families that cannot afford to eat healthy. The beds won't be free, but they will be at a price that the families can afford, so they will avoid having to buy their vegetables from convenience stores or liquor stores. Salvador and Julio are trying to make a change in their community and are willing to help families help themselves.
Thanks to Salvador Mateo, Julio Madrigal and Pamela Zimmerman for thier contributions to this article.