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EPA’s Graduates 15 Students From Summer Environmental Program - Channel 6 News Reporter Nydia Han Gives Keynote Address

Release Date: 8/19/2004
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543 & Larry Brown, 215-814-5527

Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543 & Larry Brown, 215-814-5527

PHILADELPHIA – At 10 a.m. on Thursday, August 19, Channel 6 news reporter Nydia Han will be the keynote speaker for 15 inner city students from Philadelphia, Pa. who are graduating from EPA’s Student Environmental Development Program. The students will also be giving presentations on an environmental topic of special interest to them at EPA’s regional office at 1650 Arch Street in Philadelphia.

For the past 11 years, EPA’s Student Environmental Development Program immerses students in environmental issues such as children’s asthma, lead, sun safety, water pollution, second-hand smoke, acid rain, and radon.

Students also learn a variety of life skills such as public speaking, how to think critically, how to work as a team, and how to communicate across cultural lines. They learn about job skills, peer pressure and what personal and civic responsibility means.

Students come to class five days a week and are taught, mentored and chaperoned by more than 100 EPA employees and community volunteers. They go on field trips to power plants, water treatment centers, aquariums, nature centers and wildlife refuges.

“By the time students reach high school, it’s good to begin thinking about a future,” said Larry Brown, director of the SEDP program. “In those first two years of the SEDP program we had kids who wanted to go to medical school, but they hadn’t taken any science or math classes. It was heartbreaking. No one had ever sat them down and helped them with career or life planning. From our first SEDP class in 1993, two students went on to college.”

Contrast that with the SEDP classes of 1996 and 1997. All the kids are in college and this trend continues.

Brown says the teachers, mentors and volunteers spend a lot of one-on-one time with the kids helping them figure out college and occupation choices, and ultimately helping them with important life decisions.

This year there were a total of 30 students enrolled in the program – 15 in Philadelphia, and 15 in our D.C. program. Brown said, “We started the SEDP program two years ago in the District of Columbia because officials there have made youth programs a priority.”

With this class, now 543 students have completed the program. And they take what they’ve learned back to their schools and communities. EPA estimates that approximately 50,000 people have been touched by this program.

It’s not unusual for graduates, now in high school and college, to return year after year as mentors to the new class. Or they call just to say hi. A typical phone call might be to say “I’m calling to tell you that I’m entering college this year and I’ll be majoring in biology, chemistry, environmental studies, environmental law, geology (well, you get the picture) because of SEDP.”

During the graduation ceremonies, it’s the parents who praise the program to Brown and the rest of the volunteers. “They’ll say, ‘I learned not to pour car oil on the ground,’ or ‘we learned the value of recycling.’ They go through a list of environmental do’s and don’ts which they have learned from their son or daughter.

And every year without fail Brown hears about the drastic changes the program has had on some of the kids. The ones who weren’t so interested in doing their homework or doing home chores have undergone a 180-degree change.

Each class is taught by a middle school science teacher. The students also work with EPA employee and three local high school mentors who enhance the program.

“We hope these relationships and their interest in environmental protection will last a lifetime,” said Brown.