This past summer, we interned with Chispa CT, working on the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign.
None of us had ever spent any time together before, but by the time we finished the internship, we realized that we shared so many things in common. Like how the three of us had only moved to Hartford in recent years, our families coming from all kinds of different places—from Jamaica, Miami, Atlanta, and New Jersey. Like how many of us suffer from asthma or have a close family member who does. How these types of breathing problems can be worsened by dirty traffic pollution.
And, like how we all want to help people, especially children, gain access to clean air.
Working alongside volunteers, organizers and community members, the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños internship asked us to walk through our vecindarios and talk to our neighbors about the air quality and the environment where we live. We shared with them Chispa’s goal to replace diesel-fueled school buses with clean, zero-emission buses, because our dirty buses are worsening the breathing problems of kids who ride the bus to school every day and increasing pollution in every neighborhood the buses drive through.
People got it right away. This is a problem they’d known about for a long time, but weren’t sure what could be done.
When they learned that the Volkswagen settlement money that our state is receiving could be used to reduce air pollution, they immediately asked how they could help make it happen. We helped them sign a petition and send letters to their elected officials. We encouraged them to use their voices to ask for change. As teenagers, it felt amazing to be influencers in our communities, guiding meaningful action for change. As teenagers, it felt amazing to join with our communities and harness our collective power.
We feel lucky to have been a part of this campaign and to have learned how to organize our communities. We learned how to talk to and, more importantly, how to listen to our communities about what they need. This helped us see that we all want similar things: safe, pollution-free neighborhoods, healthy futures.
We learned so much about our own neighborhoods and the people who live here. But perhaps more importantly, we learned a ton about ourselves and our connection to our communities. People were so supportive, so welcoming. Through these interactions, we bonded with the people around us, and now we feel even more a part of our communities!
Through the CTLCV and LCV Chispa program, we developed skills we know we’ll use for the rest of our lives. As we see more Connecticut lawmakers and districts joining families and parents to support the campaign for clean school buses, #CleanRide4Kids, we know that we—our communities—can make a difference.