OCEANSIDE — A North County-based environmental organization that promotes environmental awareness through educating and involving students has been chosen for a nearly $100,000 grant to help clean up San Diego County’s air.
CleanEarth4Kids.org requested approximately $99,560 to help fund its initiatives and goals for Oceanside Unified and Vista Unified school districts from the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Air Grants Program.
The Air Grants Program is part of CARB’s overall efforts to implement Assembly Bill 617, which was first signed into law in 2017. The bill established a community-based framework aimed at improving air quality and reducing exposure to toxic air pollutants in highly impacted California communities. CARB created the grant program to help these communities participate in implementing AB 617.
CARB selected 29 projects around the state to receive a total of $5 million from the state’s fiscal year 2018-2019 budget. One of those projects is CleanEarth4Kids.org’s #SolutionsForPollution and #SolutionsForClimateChange campaigns.
According to the Air Grants awardee website, CleanEarth4Kids.org’s project will teach community members how to advocate for children’s health, clean air, clean water and non-toxic lands through education, activities, contests and more. These goals fall under the mission of CleanEarth4Kids.org, a nonprofit founded earlier in 2019 by Suzanne Hume.
The organization has been working with students in Vista Unified and Oceanside Unified school districts over the last year. In both districts the organization helps to pass climate action resolutions as well as no idling cars resolutions.
Because of these relationships with the two school districts, the organization wants to use grant funds to plant five trees on each of the districts’ school campuses, create and distribute no idling signs and acquire air monitoring sensors for students to use.
“One tree sequesters 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide which is important for the environment,” said Aubrey Riosa, a junior at El Camino High School in Oceanside and a member of the CleanEarth4Kids.org Youth Board. “By planting trees in the school districts, this can impact students in a positive atmosphere because it reduces stress on students.”
The districts haven’t officially signed on to the organization’s plan to plant trees on campuses, but Hume said the organization has been in discussions with the districts and plans to have more in the near future about the project.
The grant would also be used to help fund CleanEarth4Kids.org contests, like writing climate action plans and petitions and creating artwork and signs advocating for clean air and water.
Hume said $5,000 of the funds would be used to create radio advertisements and other media, which is an avenue that some of her students are interested in. Many of the students are responsible for creating video clips, graphics and other media that the organization uses on its website.
“We’re excited about students participating in activities like tree planting and learning facts about trees and feeling empowered because they take the necessary steps to reduce greenhouse gases and protect their environment,” Hume said.
The organization involves students in its work to help teach them how to be advocates for their local environment.
Judith Pineda, a junior at El Camino High School, is active in the school’s CleanEarth4Kids.org club. Her strength is in creating artwork for the club to promote its campaigns.
Pineda believes that by creating art about improving air and water quality and protecting the land, it can help community members acknowledge that these are issues that need to be addressed and what work the organization is doing.
According to Pineda, she is one of the quietest students in the organization. Being part of CleanEarth4Kids.org has helped her to get over some of her shyness and has allowed her to find a voice.
“I never thought that I’d make a difference in this world with art I created but when I heard my posters can be placed all over the world and possibly change perspective of millions of people, it motivated me,” Pineda said. “I am absolutely the most quietest person in the club, but I believe I can have a very loud voice if I choose to.”
The organization works with local groups as well as others around the nation to promote the importance of improving air quality and protecting water and land.
According to Hume, CleanEarth4Kids.org is waiting to hear back from CARB with more information on the grant and possible suggestions to improve what the organization is proposing. CARB will be reaching out to its grant awardees sometime this month.
Samantha Nelson covers Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and the decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. She earned her journalism degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, and has previously reported for The Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio, and USA Today in McLean, Virginia. Follow her on Twitter: @samm1son