Youth on Patrol Against Pollution
Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice actively engages youths to explore relevant social and environmental issues that impact their lives now and in the future. DWEJ’s Youth on Patrol Against Pollution (YOPAP) program provides firsthand opportunities for young people to take an active role in their communities while building lasting leadership and academic skills.
The program focuses on three key elements:
- Developing young leaders in environmental justice
- Building awareness and understanding of the natural environment
- Encouraging careers in the environmental sciences
Youth on Patrol Against Pollution chapters are established through local churches, elementary and secondary schools, neighborhood block clubs and civic organizations. By developing these chapters, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice builds a secure foundation for the successful transition of leadership to the next generation.
Are you a Detroit high schooler interested in working for environmental justice in your city and community? You can start an EJ Club at your high school or even volunteer here at DWEJ:
Taking back the media
YOPAP gives youth the opportunity to combat the negative messages they are bombarded with every day by teaching them the skills to create their own media and broadcast messages about what they care about. At the beginning of the program, students photodocument environmental issues in their neighborhoods and develop a vision for change. They then create a Photovoice presentation to educate civic and government leaders and community members on the environmental concerns faced by their communities. Throughout the program, students use knowledge they gain to film, edit, and produce short videos including public service announcements, environmental talk shows, and mini-documentaries.
Environmental health education
Students research major brownfield sites and polluting facilities to conduct “Toxic Tours” to learn about environmental health hazards in Detroit communities. During the tours, students also highlight the positive strides that can be made when residents, businesses, and decision-makers work together to bring about change. YOPAP students have gone on to lead two Toxic Tours to teach other concerned citizens and visitors about the environmental history of Detroit and remaining health hazards in the city.
Members of YOPAP attended Powershift ’09 in Lansing, Michigan, where environmental advocates assembled in Michigan’s state capital to show support for policies such as creating green jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Water quality testing
A summer 2009 group of YOPAP youth tested the water at Belle Isle beach for e. coli, a bacteria that is an indicator of poor water quality—and a reason to close public beaches if it is found at high enough levels. Students tested the beach about twice a week for six weeks, taking 1 mL samples of water and incubating them for 48 hours to allow bacteria to grow. Two or more e. coli colonies in a 1 mL water sample indicate a health risk on public beaches; students found as many as 13 colonies per sample.
Invasive plant control
One YOPAP project focused on researching ways to control phragmites, an invasive plant species that inhibits the growth of native plants on Belle Isle. While conducting the research, students learned how disturbances in the ecosystem impact wildlife and what can be done to mitigate the negative effects. After four weeks of research and data collection, students presented their findings and recommendations to the Belle Isle Nature Center in a formal proposal.
YOPAP youth refurbished a dilapidated picnic shelter at the fishing dock on Belle Isle’s northeast coast. When they started, the shelter was arguably hopeless with incomplete picnic table frames and even a bullet hole in the roof. However, with some training from an expert, the YOPAP group was able to sand and weld picnic frames, refinish corroded wood, and paint the structure—and the result was beautiful.