Category Archives: EPA

macksmack staff racks up 10 state journalism awards — 1st place in environmental reporting

 

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Anthony Beron, editor of macksmack, accepting one of 6 journalism prizes

by Janaya Andrews

Winning 1st place award in environmental reporting, macksmack journalists swept a total of 10 awards in the California Press Women high school journalism contest.

“What an awesome win,” said Pamela Tapia, one of the blog’s advisors and a McClymonds graduate.

“We were competing against the wealthiest, best-funded, most tech-savvy suburban, private and parochial high schools in California,” she added.

First place in environmental writing went to Sana Saeed, a 2013 graduate, who tackled the toxins in lipstick in her piece “Is My Lipstick A Lethal Weapon?” Her story was also entered in the National Federation of Press Women high school contest.

Two seniors won top photo awards, Jonae Scott with a 2nd place in sports photography and Luckie Lovette with 3rd place in feature photography for a photo essay on tattoos.

“We pulled it off with the least expensive cameras — sometimes borrowed — and without high tech devices, lighting equipment or digital enhancements,” said Tapia.

Senior Lee Benson won 3rd place in environmental writing for writing “Eco-cool”, which discussed a rising trend in students bicycling to school.

Macksmack editor Anthony Beron racked up six awards, including 3rd place in news writing for a piece on the murder of classmate Denzel Jones in February. He won 2nd and 3rd places in environmental reporting, 3rd place in sports for a piece on the lone male cheerleader at McClymonds and 2nd place in opinion writing for a piece on vegetarians eating in the school cafeteria-

He also won an honorable mention in feature writing for a piece on the digital divide hurting student grades.

The awards ceremony took place at UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism on March 12.

 

 

Sustainable Future for Oakland: Students Care

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by Anthony Beron

Oakland High senior Kasey Saeturn relies on the bus for the long trek to school every day. It’s already overcrowded and unreliable.

Her nightmare could end: an alternative plan known as Scenario 5 could make Oakland more “sustainable” while investing more money in buses to restore service to levels that existed in the past, she told  at an environmental impact report hearing on April 16.

“Buses are overcrowded,” she said.  She also supports “eco-friendly buses.”

Saeturn was one of several students to testify at the hearing about the Environmental Impact Report, which analyzed several alternatives to Plan Bay Area.

In their testimony, students supported Alternative 5, touted as “the environmentally superior alternative,”  which would decrease greenhouse gases and particulate pollution that triggers asthma. It would also budget more money for affordable housing and buses.

The other students were graduates of McClymonds, Street Academy and Bentley high school, who are now attending college. The Rose Foundation’s summer program “New Voices Are Rising” had stirred interest in the plan.

Woody Little, a student at UC Berkeley who grew up in Rockridge, urged that any plan avoid displacing people from their current neighborhoods and create more affordable housing.

Plan Bay Area is a long-range transportation and land-use/housing plan for the entire San Francisco Bay Area. It includes the Bay Area’s Regional Transportation Plan (updated by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission), and the Association of Bay Area Governments’ demographic and economic forecast.

This is the first time legislation is asking MTC and ABAG to adopt a Sustainable Communities Strategy, which will coordinate land use and transportation in the regional transportation plan. The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for cars and light-duty trucks in the nine-county region.  If the plan succeeds in getting people out of their cars, there would be more people riding buses and BART.

Pamela Tapia, a McClymonds graduate, told the story of her family’s displacement: that her mother now has to travel four hours to work and spends $60 a day. “The EIR fails to factor in the impact of gentrification on housing costs in neighborhoods that historically have been home to low-income residents.” Another McClymonds graduate, Devilla Ervin, talked about his foster mother having to move to Sacramento to find affordable housing.

Brenda Barron, who graduated from Street Academy and now attends San Francisco State, testified about changes in transportation: there are no buses near her home after 10 pm. She said that public transit  should be more affordable and frequent  and matters to younger people.

Another public hearing is scheduled in Fremont on May 1 at 6 pm at the Mirage Ballroom.

Asthma in West Oakland: How It Affects Mack Students

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by Jonae Scott and Anthony Beron

Students at McClymonds are four times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than students at Piedmont High, just four miles away.

Just ask Pamela Tapia.

Now 19 and a 2011 graduate, Tapia recounted being hospitalized for two weeks as a Mack sophomore, just as she was writing a story for Oaktown Teen Times about air pollution and diesel fumes in West Oakland, which has the 3rd highest rate of hospitalization for asthma in the state.

“The story was no longer about statistics,” she said. “It was about ME.”

Tapia was one of six speakers at a forum about asthma sponsored by The Oakland Tribune on March 20. They tackled every aspect of asthma from triggers to vitamin D deficiency, from code enforcement to social justice issues.

For Tapia, the first asthma attack was disorienting. “Why do I feel like I’m drowning,” she recalled. It spurred her to be an activist with the Rose Foundation and along with McClymonds students from the Law Academy, to confront issues that adults were ignoring. “No one in the West was speaking up [at that time],” she said.

Tapia and Fremont High senior Pearl Joy Balagot wrote stories about asthma as reporting fellows for the Tribune. Balagot’s story this week focused on strict guidelines in the Oakland Unified School District for taking kids with asthma on field trips. In her investigation, Balagot found that most teachers were not aware of the guidelines.

The reaction was similar at McClymonds.  Ron Delaney, who teaches U.S, History,  had not heard about the new guidelines for asthma, but he had not taken any students on field trip. Kat Hall, who teaches engineering, had taken 13 students on a field trip, with one who identified as asthmatic. She said his mother kept his inhaler and said he did not need it for the field trip.

While the first panel, which also included Oakland Tribune reporter Katy Murphy,  focused on youth and asthma, the second panel addressed environmental factors and health strategies. Experts included Joel Ervice, an expert on diesel pollution regulations, Brenda Rueda-Yamashita and Dr. Washington Burns, who organized the county’s Breathmobile.

Why Mack Students Should Care About Climate Change

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by Anthony Beron

High asthma rates, diesel fumes from the Port of Oakland, pollution from four freeways near McClymonds High School. Add another environmental concern for students: climate change.

A March 23 workshop organized by Oakland Climate Action Coalition — which hopes to lure McClymonds students and other youths — will address the preparation and survival skills needed to address climate change for West Oakland residents.

“We don’t want to label ourselves as victims,” says Myesha Williams of the Rose Foundation, one of the event’s organizers. “We want to prepare ourselves as a community, to use our resilience, and share our resources.”

Several McClymonds students expressed interest in the issue and the day-long workshop. “Global warming impacts my future and my health,” said Brandon Von Der Werth, a junior. “I know that people suffer from asthma and we need to improve air quality.”

Lee Benson, also a junior, agreed that education and preparation were central to dealing with the environmental inequalities in West Oakland. “I want to stay healthy and help others,” he said.

Global warming’s consequences are prevalent in our biome, including West Oakland.

West Oakland is OCAC’s current main concern, because of its susceptibility to flooding.

“West Oakland is below sea-level, and is extremely prone to flooding,” said Williams.

That, combined with poor air quality have inspired Mack students to speak out. This would not be the first time McClymonds students were involved in environmental activism. When McClymonds was divided into small schools, its Law Academy explored pollution in West Oakland.  Its students testified about diesel fumes before state and federal boards.  The testimony helped change the rules about retrofitting trucks running on diesel fuel.

A four-year project by students in the Law Academy at McClymonds found that metal particles were present in the air surrounding the school community.  They took their findings to local media and eventually, they got the attention of Nancy Nadel, West Oakland’s City Council Representative.  With her support, a number of city agencies, including Police, Fire, Code Enforcement and City Attorney came together and conducted investigations regarding Custom Alloy Scrap Sales compliance with environmental regulations.   Their findings determined that CASS was in violation of a number of regulations.  Although CASS has taken steps to correct a number of the violations, they are actively seeking to move their location away from the residential neighborhood, where they have conducted business for more than 25 years.

After pressure by local groups, CASS was trying to relocate to vacant industrial land next to the former Oakland Army Base.

Some of the same issues — injustice, public health, equity and lack of  resources —  are in play in the battle against global warming as in the community fight against pollutants from a smelter, said Williams. “It’s time to start to take care of our community and its future.”

Violence, Curfew, and the Future of Mack: Students Lead Forum With West Oakland Candidates

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photos by Breannie Robinson

by Selena Williams

Move over, Hofstra University. You have competition in hosting debates: students at McClymonds High School ran their school’s  first Election Candidates Forum last Thursday.

About 60 people attended the forum, including first-time voters like senior Carlos Valladares. “I sense that all  these candidates want to make West Oakland a better community,” said Valladares after the forum.”Tough choice.”

There were few disagreements, unlike the second debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. One candidate — Lynette McElhaney — left early and school board candidate Richard Fuentes could not attend because he had to work (for the Oakland City Council). City council candidate Alex Miller-Cole said he would be “one politician whose cell phone number you have” and candidate Larry Lionel Young Jr. stressed that he understood youth issues better because he was young.

The political forum grew out of interest by students participating in Alternatives in Action’s YOLO Youth Organizing Leadership Opportunities. Senior Donte Jackson asked many of the questions about safety, violence, jobs, a proposed teen curfew and McClymonds’ future.

City council candidates included Nyesha DeWitt, a youth dropout prevention specialist, Lynette Gibson-McElhaney, director of a housing non-profit (who left early), Alex Miller-Cole, a small business owner, Sean Sullivan, who works with homeless youth, and Larry Lionel Young, a realtor who ran for mayor in 2010.

The candidates are competing for Nancy Nadel’s seat. Nadel announced that she would step down after four terms representing West Oakland.  All contenders describe themselves as liberal or progressive. They all support community policing and oppose gang injunctions, and youth curfews.

Also speaking were school board candidates, incumbent Jumoke Hinton Hodge and challenger Benjamin Lang, who said he was the only candidate who has spent no money on his campaign and has accepted no donations. Candidate Richard Fuentes, who has the support of the teachers’ union, could not attend.

Among the more striking statements, Sullivan said that better lighting in Emeryville made the streets there safer and cleaner. And Young kept using slogans to push his candidacy. “Vote LL: Oakland will be well.”

Oakland Students Testify for Better Transportation and More Low-Income Housing

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by Brenda Barron

Street Academy

It took courage, patience (waiting for four hours and through chanting by the Tea Party) and brevity (each speaker allowed one minute or 60 seconds).

Despite the hurdles, three students from Oakland public high schools testified for better transportation and more low income housing last Thursday at a heated 4 ½-hour meeting hosted by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).

No action was taken but the two groups unanimously voted to move forward with a deeply flawed draft of the “One Bay Area” plan, a $277 billion transportation and housing plan in the nine-county Bay Area that must also help meet greenhouse gas reduction targets set in California SB 375.

As one of the students and as a senior at Emiliano Zapata Street Academy. I spoke publicly about many problems in the community and the change that is needed.

I talked about taking public transportation since I was five years old when I started riding the bus to my mom’s work. I never thought transportation was a big deal until I grew up,  but it has changed a lot since I was five.

In the last few years, bus lines have been cut and changed so often that people get confused about which lines go to which place. People do not want see bus service cut. They want to see more bus routes, and more frequent buses.

Many people take buses because it costs less than BART, but BART takes you farther, and goes faster.   I would like to see the BART and buses cost less, especially for the young people — because we go to school and most of us don’t have jobs, so we can’t afford it. I would like to see more clean buses and BART.

Other speakers (including McClymonds graduate Devilla Ervin) pointed out flaws in the plan considered: that it does not restore  lost transit service, does not protect people from displacement, does not protect people from diesel fumes and does not create new affordable housing for people who live there.

Oakland Tech student Tanika O’Guinn and Street Academy student Eliezer Mendoza also spoke.

Pamela Tapia, a graduate from McClymonds, also representing New Voices Are Rising, talked about her own homelessness after her family lost its housing and was forced to relocate.

“My family in West Oakland lost our apartment,” Tapia said. “My mom was supporting three people on a minimum-wage job. She and my sister moved to Stockton but I had to choose between going with them and dropping out of school or staying here. The explosion of luxury homes has pushed out low-income people. As a homeless teen, I want to tell you to stop the displacement,” Tapia said.

Two Mack students win in Northern California journalism contest

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Pamela Tapia won several awards in 2011 for environmental and feature stories. Here she is pictured accepting an award from Betty Packard at last year’s Northern California Press Women Association awards’ ceremony.

Now a community college freshman, Tapia again won 2nd prize in 2012 in environmental reporting for a story on cleaning up West Oakland. The story first appeared in macksmack and was published in the June 2011 issue of  Oaktown Teen Times.

Stephen Vance, a senior at McClymonds and a summer intern at the Rose Foundation in 2011, won honorable mention for a story he wrote about the Greening of West Oakland.  The story first appeared in macksmack and was published in Oaktown Teen Times in December 2011.