Summer Institute - Agua University

Pacoima Beautiful’s annual Summer Institute took place in July at the Pacoima Neighborhood City Hall. Pacoima Beautiful’s Youth Coordinator Hugo Cortinez and Youth Organizer Diego Ortiz facilitated the first week of classes where topics around the subject of environmental justice were discussed. “Most people tend to think the word environment relates to nature but don’t realize your community is also part of your immediate environment. Environmental justice is concerned with the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people” expressed a Summer Institute participant after class was out for the day. Students participated in a discussion about the zoning challenges as well as the lack of open space in Pacoima. They learned about air and water quality issues in the North East San Fernando Valley and its connection to higher rates of asthma. A day was dedicated to waste reduction and sustainability teaching students about the zero waste movement and the advanced waste system in Los Angeles designed to process trash in the second largest city in the nation. The week ended with a trip to Bradley Plaza where Max Podemski, Pacoima Beautiful’s Planning Director, walked students through the process of placemaking and converting an area into a place where people are drawn to and participate in activities, such as Bradley Plaza.

Pacoima Beautiful partnered with Urban Semillas for the final weeks of Summer Institute. Agua University Summer Institute introduced students to the watersheds of Los Angeles and how to view issues of planning, conservation and sustainability through a “water lens.” The program took students on field trips to the tributaries of the Los Angeles River like the Pacoima and Tujunga Wash. Students visited the Malibu Lagoon and learned about the restoration efforts that began in the 1970s and continue today. Guest speakers including scientists, news anchors paid a visit and talked about their role in conserving and protecting the precious resource. Throughout the course of the program students worked in groups to break down the information they received during presentations, field trips, lectures and articles they read. Emmy award winning Journalist Gabriela Teisser stopped by to talk with students about effective presentation techniques and being succinct when speaking publicly. The program culminated with a student and professional’s luncheon where student groups presented what they learned throughout the program to teachers, lawyers, elected officials and engineers.

Agua University culminated with a two week long California State Water Tour trip with thirteen students, four chaperones, two vans packed with a whole lot of gear and eager youth. The students who participated had the privilege to stop at Diaz Lake, The Ancient Bristol Pine Forest, June Lake, Mono Lake, Yosemite, Sacramento, and Mt. Shasta where they stayed with the Winamumunto Tribe.  State water tour students were not only able to experience firsthand where their water comes from and hear from the different communities about the relationship they have to water, but students were also able to have a tremendously fun time doing so.  Students went swimming, camping, and even white water rafting on the south fork of the American River.  The trip was an epic experience for all who participated and Pacoima Beautiful looks forward to continue working with the state water tour students in order to pass along their new found water knowledge.