A More Youthful Perspective

 “Cow farts? No way! Is that really a problem?” quipped one of the youth with the Service Board (tSB) while playing our Jeopardy-like game in a recent workshop hosted by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency's Chinatown - International District engagement team. The youth were surprised to learn how cow farts create methane, and that smoke particle pollution has the biggest impact on their health. Air Quality Scientist Phil Swartzendruber played Alex Trebek for this game and says it was a very rewarding experience to listen to the thought process of each team as they tried to answer questions, and says students seemed to have fun in the process.

tSB is a youth-led organization that builds community around strengthening youth capacity, amplifying their voices and increases access to opportunities for leadership and development. Their Summer Leadership Impact Program (SLIP) had been meeting regularly, virtually, throughout the summer. So, the virtual aspect of the workshop was almost second-nature, but perhaps more for the youth than some of the Agency staff who can still remember life before cell phones and email.

Carmen Berrysmith (from tSB) kicked off the event with everyone sharing their favorite natural resource. Answers ranged from water, to wood, to specific types of rock, and more. "We were impressed by the genuine and thoughtful answers," said Phil. After the kickoff and introductions, Isha Khanna, Air Monitoring Specialist for the Agency, presented a quick overview of the Agency, an air quality introduction, and talked about why we are dedicated to environmental justice. Her presentation also encouraged and explained how young people can get more involved in the environmental justice movement. 

After Jeopardy, four current Agency staff (Isha Khanna, Air Monitoring Specialist; Angela Song, Clean Air Specialist; Lizzy Sandstrom, Paralegal; and Ivan Rivera, Inspector) discussed as a panel, their interests, career paths, and personal stories that led to their current position. The panel also shared ideas for how students could get into environmental careers, including looking for internships/volunteering opportunities to assess what interests them.

A few days after the SLIP ended its session with the current group of youth, we were invited to their graduating ceremony. “I was able to watch the graduation ceremonies where each youth was able to present a final art project. Each one presented an artistic piece that was both beautiful and moving. I was inspired by the meaning behind each piece. I’m proud to be partners with such a great organization” says Angela Song.

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency values opportunities such as this because it gives us a different perspective than our typical day-to-day work. We are able to see a glimmer of what today’s youth care about and wish to aspire to, which helps us further develop our educational and outreach materials to be appropriate and digestible to a variety of audiences. It also gives us a more youthful outlook on the future, which is helpful for a lot of reasons and mostly to give us just a little bit of hope in uncertain times.

This was the third year the Agency has been working with the Service Board’s Summer Leadership Impact Program (SLIP) as part of our community engagement work, but the first time we hosted an Air Quality Jeopardy game and discussion panel in an all virtual format. It was also the first time we had an outreach event during a pandemic, and we learned a lot about ourselves.

By the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency's Chinatown - International District Community Engagement team