Sí Se Puede Ser Verde! (Yes, We Can Be Green!)
In late February, 15 high school students from East Los Angeles spent a day in the San Gabriel Mountains, sponsored by the Sierra Club's Inner City Outings program (ICO) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).
"This was my first time to the snow," says Jesse De La Torre (below in Los Angeles jacket), a 15-year-old student at Montebello High School. "I never thought there was a place like that in L.A."
Leading the trip were Edward Acevedo (at right, below), Program Director for LULAC's National Educational Service Center in Los Angeles, Angeles Chapter ICO leader Melody Anderson (in pink jacket), and chapter outings leader Gerard Lewis (in yellow & black jacket). Also pictured are Alejandro Meeks (left) and Emely Llanes (center).
"The kids had a great time," says Acevedo. "The trip was an introduction to the local mountains that serve as a backdrop to their gang-infested neighborhoods. They used sleds, made snow men, had snow ball fights—all the things they've previously seen only in photos and movies. Many of them didn't realize how close these mountains really are to their neighborhood."
The next day, with the help of a Sierra Club organizer Juana Torres, the students wrote to their congressperson for the first time. Torres discussed protection of the San Gabriels, and how important it was to the families in the area to have this natural resource protected, preserved, and funded. "I'm glad our program is teaching us how to protect these mountains," says De La Torre. "I'm grateful LULAC and the Sierra Club came together to take us there."
The partnership came about late last year during a LULAC conference in Washington, D.C. The slogan of the conference was Sí Se Puede Ser Verde! (Yes, We Can Be Green!), and LULAC approached the Sierra Club to get more information on green issues.
"We organized a breakfast for them," says Isabel Long, the Club's Associate Representative for Latino Partnerships. "We told them about the history of the Club, the Sierra Student Coalition, our Building Bridges to the Outdoors program, and our recent work with the Latino community. Ed was one of the teachers who attended, and he expressed an interest in partnering with us in L.A. because of all the environmental issues affecting the Latino community there, as well as outdoor activities he wanted to bring to his students."
"Now," Long says, "we'd like to have the parents of these students go to a regular outing. Melody, our ICO leader, is part of a diversity task force in the Angeles Chapter. What they're doing doing in L.A. is an example for other chapters around the country." The LULAC National Education Service Center sends 50 students to Washingon, D.C., each year as part of its Hispanic Leadership Opportunity Program.