Tag Archives: environment

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.

 

 

EcoCool: Why Some Mack Students Bike to School

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by Lee Benson

His gold bicycle shines in the sunlight, as Shaquan “Sip” Washington locks it outside of McClymonds High School. He is one of only a handful of students and teachers who ride their bicycles to school. “It’s not just eco-friendly, it’s practical,” says Washington.

Today is different: no lock, so the sophomore rolls his Schwinn inside and parks it in Officer Humphrey Garret’s office on the second floor.  In West Oakland, where Bikes 4 Life founder Terry Coleman helps kids fix bikes on 7th Street and sometimes organizes Rides for Peace, bicycles take on a different meaning: they are cheap transportation but they can also be also dangerous.

Two bicycle riders were robbed near West Oakland BART on May 8 (and blogged about it).

Just six weeks ago, McClymonds student Frenswa Raynor was riding his bicycle near the downtown area when police mistakenly identified him as a robbery suspect. He was shot in the jaw.

And there are plenty of bicycle thefts. Just a few months ago, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon broke up a major stolen bicycle ring. Police say most of the stolen bicycles are sold at flea markets in Oakland.

So why do McClymonds students (and teachers) ride their bicycles to school? Necessity or style?

“I ride my bike to school everyday because my parents work and do not have enough time to drop me off at school,” says Washington.

For Rahquille”Roc” Jackson, a sophomore at McClymonds, “it’s way more convenient than walking.”  He adds, “I live down the street.”

For Kelton Reynolds, another sophomore at McClymonds, it’s a way to stay in shape. “As a varsity football player, I look for ways to exercise and strengthen my muscles. This is as effective as me running the track around the football field.” Long term substitute teacher Michael Curry claims that ,”I ride my bike to school occasionally because gas prices nowadays are too high to drive to school everyday.”

Billy Stevens, a freshman on the McClymonds basketball team says that it has double benefits for him, too. “I ride my bike to school because I need to save money and I can get my exercise as well.”

Not all students agree. Luckie Lovette, a junior at McClymonds, prefers to walk. “It’s better exercise and I don’t have to worry about where to park it.”

What “Healthy Environment” Means to Mack Students

by Janiero Rodriguez

This week, two youth groups at Mack — YOLO and Real Hard — are promoting the idea of “healthy environment.”

I asked several students and a tutor to define “healthy environment.”

Kardel Howard (not photographed), a sophomore, said

“Water is clean. No trash on the street. The air is clean and smells like trees.”

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Miles Mitchell, sophomore:

“A healthy environment to me is violence free environment and an environment that is very green.”

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Daishawn Shannon, sophomore:

“Keep everything clean, not just your own neighborhood.”

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Lavance Warren, sophomore:

“To keep your neighborhood streets clean.”

Tutor Amy Nickersen said:

“A healthy environment is an environment where you can thrive physically, emotionally and spiritually, physically — clean, safe, makes you feel good. Emotionally — inspiring environment, creative, where you can think productive thoughts.”

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.”

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.
 
 

How healthy are tots living near CASS in West Oakland?

Terranisha Nathaniel, Stephen Vance and Pamela Tapia received EPA awards in February 2011 for work done in identifying and fighting pollution in West Oakland.

By Stephen Vance 

with reporting from San Jose Mercury-News

How bad is the air near the smelter just five blocks from McClymonds?

Just ask a mother.

A  new pilot study sponsored by the nonprofit Global Community Monitor will test the blood of tots (children 1 through 5) who live within a mile of Custom Alloy Scrap Sales, or CASS, targeted by environmental groups for pollution issues.

“We’re just starting to recruit families in West Oakland,” says Ruth Breech, program director of Global Community Monitor.

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 CASS’ 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 is trying to relocate to vacant industrial land next to the former Oakland Army Base.

Breech said a total of 70 children — 35 children from each West Oakland and 35 from West Berkeley who live near Pacific Steel Casting– will be tested for heavy metals that have been previously detected in air quality samples.

“This was prompted by the community,” Breech said. “They said, ‘OK, it’s in the air, so what is in our bodies?’ ”

Children who live near  CASS  will be tested for lead and cadmium. Children who live near Pacific Steel Casting in West Berkeley will be tested for manganese.

The study will compare the levels of metal found in children who live very close to the plants with the test results of children living on the edge of the study area. The results will also be compared with “normal” levels of exposure to those metals detected from other studies.

“We have residential neighbors really living next to heavy industry, so our question is what is too close? How do we coexist?” Breech said.

The study is a collaboration with the UC San Francisco pediatric environmental health specialty unit and Children’s Hospital Oakland. Children who are selected for the study will have their blood drawn at Children’s Hospital.

The family must also make their home available for a one-time dust wipe sample that will be studied for the presence of metals.

Air samples will also be taken during the study.

Participating families will be given the blood test and dust wipe results compared to national averages. Families will also be referred to health agencies to help them interpret the results and find ways to reduce their families’ exposure, Breech said. The study will be completed by the end of this summer.

For more information about the study and how to join, call 510-233-1870 or email program@gcmonitor.org.

The Greening of West Oakland

photo by Quailyn Scott, Skyline High School

photo by Quailyn Scott, Skyline High School

By Stephen Vance

Greening West Oakland. Less cement, more parks and even ponds stocked with fish. More foot traffic and public transportation. And most of all, mixed income housing and retail. Those elements were part of a blueprint for West Oakland that 13 Oakland students created during their summer internship at The Rose Foundation.
“This was the first time students from McClymonds, Mandela, Oakland Tech, Oakland High, Street Academy and Skyline came up with their own vision of a healthy, sustainable community,” said Jill Ratner, president of The Rose Foundation.
“After all their work identifying the sources of pollution in the neighborhood and testimony about diesel fumes, they were able to present a truly beautiful blueprint for what they really want in their community,” Ratner added.
The blueprint was developed in response to Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) – a planning process, which will guide use planning for the next 25 years. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions per person as required by California law SB 375 (SB 375 was adopted by the CA legislature in 2008 and aims to reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions  to 1990 levels by 2020 — and by 80 percent by 2050).
Two local agencies — Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Association of Bay Area Governments — are preparing  workshops in January, and will  release a scenario  for public comment in March or April.
The summer project also coincided with a pilot project by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean lead pollution at several West Oakland locations. For the first time, the EPA used a less invasive and less costly technology that uses fish bones to chemically bond with the lead, making it harmless to people.
The idea was to go beyond identifying toxic elements, health issues like asthma, and pollutants, which students at McClymonds tackled as part of the school’s Law & Government Academy’s focus on environmental justice. McClymonds students, who testified before the EPA and state and local boards, won an award for their community service last year.
“The summer was devoted to making West Oakland sustainable and empowering the voice of the youth,” said Ratner.
“Working on sustainability taught me to rethink urban planning and how that affects the community, ” said  Taneka O’Guin , a senior at Oakland Tech.

 In order to create a blueprint, students visited the self-reliant house at Merritt College and heard from a number of experts on sustainability and environmental technology. One of the speakers, Dr. Paloma Pazel emphasized the “six wins” necessary to make a sustainable community: better health; end of gentrification and displacement; affordable housing; reliable transportation; economic opportunity and community activism.
Over the summer, students learned how to make informed, responsible, and healthy decisions when it comes to the vision of sustainability in their community. They put their dreams and vision to work.