By Alyssa Bravo and Isaac Otero | What is the next step in addressing environmental issues in our world today? Comite Civico Del Valle* believes that involving the youth will be beneficial. This is one of the reasons why Comite Civico Del Valle (CCV) started the Environmental Health Internship that we have been fortunate to participate in. Comite came to our high school to promote this internship and also gave a presentation on IVAN, a community network that Identifies Violations that Affect Neighborhoods.
Photo above: A ranger at the Sonny Bono Wildlife Preserve taking the interns on a tour at the Salton Sea. Photo by Mariana Claustro.
I wanted to participate for many reasons, and one of them would be because I thought the internship would help on applications for college and resumes. Besides that I also find environmental issues today interesting, and I wanted to know more on how I can help. We live on this earth, and it is frightening to know that it has been getting worse as shown by the hurricanes and fires that have happened. So when a representative from Comite Civico Del Valle, Mariana Claustro, came to my class to present the opportunity, I knew immediately I wanted to sign up. After the presentation she asked who was interested in the internship and handed those individuals an application. On the application it asked why you wanted to participate, do you have any extracurricular activities, and more. I filled it out and gave it to Ms. Claustro directly. She said that only ten students would be selected, and I am grateful for being one of those students.
I found out about the Comite Civico Del Valle health internship when helping at the bi-weekly food drive for farm workers affected by the drought. I overheard a few friends talking about the internship, and I asked what it was about. After talking to one of the ladies involved in the internship, I instantly knew I wanted to be involved in the program.
All my life since I was a kid, my life had to do with the environment from going out and fishing to biking around my hometown. Recently as I had gone out fishing, I saw how much people didn’t care about the environment around them ⎼ with all the trash scattered around. By joining this internship I thought I could be informed and help more. So later that same Monday, I applied, and luckily I was accepted.
Basically how the internship works is that the students meet every Saturday from 9 am to 12 pm for about a three month period. We are expected to attend all of the meetings, but sometimes we are able to miss one if it is for a good reason such as taking the ACT. When it first started we mainly learned some aspects of air pollution that we needed to know such as what are PM 2.5 and PM 10, which are small particles that get deep into our lungs. They told us from the get-go that we would need to present on air pollution and the Community Air Monitoring Network on the IVAN site. We learned important facts about air pollution, that it can help cause dementia, cancer, heart disease, etc. The following meeting we watched videos on how to present well and what makes a intriguing presentation.
Another video that we watched and discussed as a group was on the impact of the Salton Sea on the Imperial Valley. The Salton Sea is receding, and if it continues to recede, the fine particles on the exposed seabed will be picked up by the wind and travel, causing tiny particles to get deep into our lungs when we breathe. Learning this made us happy to learn something new, but sad that it is happening. For one of the meetings, we visited the Salton Sea to see what all the commotion was about. “When we went, I [Alyssa] was surprised to see how much dirt there was instead of water. When I heard that a lot of fish were dying in the Salton Sea, I thought of the saying, ‘There are plenty of fish in the sea,’ and then realized that, no, there really isn’t.”
In later meetings we had speakers taking their time to talk to us. One speaker was an environmentalist lawyer that spoke about how we can further our interest for the environment and how there are all kinds of majors pertaining to the environment. He also spoke a little about himself and what issues we have today. The editor of the Desert Report, Craig Deutsche, came as well and offered us opportunities to spread the word about what we are doing. We focused, practiced, and went over the standard presentation that we will be presenting in many places, such as our school, possibly the Imperial Valley mall, and any other places that we have came up with.
The objective of this internship is to inform the Imperial Valley Community about ways to protect their health and their loved ones. There are a lot of people with asthma in the Valley, and the IVAN website could be helpful when deciding what outside activities to do that won’t cause their condition to worsen if the air quality is bad that day ⎼ or even those who don’t have asthma. The goal is to open the community’s eyes to the issues and how we can be involved and informed citizens. The staff of Comite Civico Del Valle and its director, Luis Omeldo, hope this internship can bring changes to the valley. When the State sees people of the community caring and demanding change, they make them. That is one of the reasons that Comite Civico has sponsored several environmental justice summits. There are legislators, students, and other community members that attend. These Environmental Justice summits include the officials that could make beneficial changes in our community. We will be attending one or both days of the summit to see what and how we can make a change. We wish people will try to take care of their health by taking care of their environment. It is sad to know that there are individuals out there ruining our environment for money or for other reasons.
This internship has strengthened our interest in the environment. Our environment is important because if we continue polluting the air, there will be many downsides: climate change will get worse and so will our health. We hope we can make a difference.
*Comite Civico del Valle is a non-profit organization centered in Imperial County that works actively to promote the health of both the environment and people. Issues of environmental justice are foremost.
Allysa: I am a senior at Brawley Union High School and I have lived in Brawley for almost five years now with my grandparents who motivate me to do well in school. I enjoy drawing, running, wrestling, watching TV, and staying busy. I am interested in majoring in the sciences and becoming a pediatrician because I love kids and learning about biological processes.
Isaac: I have lived in Brawley California all my life. I don’t back down from anything I set my mind on. I want to help as much people as I can, especially poorer families since that is how I grew up. In the next few years I hope to be in a UC or any college to become a neurologist which is my life goal.