By Margaret Boeger, Education Director
Pepperwood’s partnership with Latino Service Providers (LSP) began just as the pandemic was taking hold. Leaders from both of these organizations were pivoting to accommodate virtual youth programs, and brainstormed how we could work together to combine programs to maximize impact on local youth. Pepperwood had just launched its inaugural University of California Climate Stewards Certification program, and we invited interested participants from the Youth Promotor Internship Program to join us for this ten-week certification. The Latino Service Providers’ Youth Promotores program was just wrapping up a cohort, and the track that focused on the environment, the Youth Promotores Verdes (YPV) track, had an interested student who participated in our program and graduated with her Climate Stewards Certification in November 2020.
The Youth Promotor Internship Program, a project funded by the CA Department of Public Health, American Red Cross, Kaiser Permanente, and Center for Disaster Philanthropy, seeks to address the mental health, emergency preparedness, civic engagement, and environmental education inequities in the Latinx community of Sonoma County. The model provides paid internships to bilingual and bicultural students (ages 16-25) in Sonoma County. The goal of the Youth Promotor Internship Program is to meaningfully engage the Latinx community on issues that impact health outcomes in the County, and inspire the future community health workforce.
Over 163 YP’s have participated since the programs’ inception in 2017. Under the Verdes track, YPVs focus on providing environmental education and climate science resources to the Latinx community. YPVs delivered a presentation in Spanish in April 2021 titled, “Pequeñas Acciones para Cuidar Nuestra Tierra / Small Actions to Care for Our Earth”. One community participant said in the open-ended portion of the workshop survey, “Una presentación muy interesante y significativo! Aprendi mucho!” (A very interesting and meaningful presentation! I learned a lot!)
Seeing the value in partnering to engage Latinx youth with environmental issues, Pepperwood has continued the relationship-building with LSP and the Youth Promotores Verdes (YPV) by participating in bi-monthly meetings speaking about climate change communication and neighborhood resilience around wildfires most recently. We plan to host the YPVs at Pepperwood for guided hikes this year, and the students will create a guided nature hike and restoration project with the intent to bring other Latinx youth to Pepperwood in the coming year.
In Sonoma County, Latinx youth makeup over 40% of the student population, and it’s important to engage these community members in climate action and environmental stewardship. Often, communities of color are the most affected by climate change. By creating this partnership that will hopefully grow for years to come, we hope to create young changemakers that will help educate people in their social networks and shape the future of environmentalism and climate action. The quote below demonstrates the “ripple effect” between a local professional, a YPV, and her family member:
“We reached out to Hugo and we talked about the six Rs. Then we did a presentation completely in Spanish. I introduced Hugo and we did a little activity and my mom actually attended and it was nice talking with her about it afterwards. She was like, Oh yeah, that was a good point you brought up. And yes, we have to be more conscious of what we use and what we throw away, what we donate. It was just amazing to just talk with her about what she learned and also that the presentation was completely in Spanish.”