Empowering Discussions

River of Change: The Anacostia Project

Earth Conservation Corps at ecc1.org

Do you have an image in your mind of environmentalists as a small section of upper middle class whites, boring scientists, or aging doped up hippies that live in a commune? This image is marketed in blockbuster movies, TV shows, and magazines, but like most of what the mainstream media projects it is just a tiny fraction of our world. It’s time to shake that image off and step outside away from your TV or computer screen. Anyone can clean up and protect our environment, just like residents of D.C. in the “South East” area near the Anacostia river. Like many “ghettos” in the USA a majority of residents are black and brown with little income and YES they care about the environment.

The Earth Conservation Corps  is a community program that encourages youth to get involved with environmental issues. It provides paid work and education to make it happen. Despite the area’s reputation to be a hot bed of violence, pollution, and poverty, residents are cleaning up and protecting their beautiful home.  Until today I had not heard of this amazing community work and education program.  I watched a video on PBS in a series, Special Profiles: Making a Difference in the Community and am their newest fan.

ECC gets their message out into the community. ecc1.org

Youth ages 17-25 are PAID and given health benefits to be a part of the ECC. There is even a $5,0000 scholarship for youth that return to school. The organization offers environmental education, workforce training, and journalism/media arts training.

  • Members host assemblies at schools to teach about environmental sustainability and wildlife.
  • Workforce training is supplied for jobs in public lands and green energy jobs.
  • They are trained to record and report on their activities.  This includes investigation and research into who and what is polluting the river.

The ECC is profiled n a wonderful video on PBS and Jerome Scott, is my newest role model. He is a knowledgeable environmental steward who gives guided tours with elementary students. Earth Conservation Corps on PBS. So many youth have been provided a chance to move beyond what they know and succeed. You can also enjoy this article on ecc1.org about Lavette Sears and her success n the program.

This is not a everything is great now story. Over the years of work, many  corp members have been killed simply from living in the neighborhoods they grew up in.  At the end of the video on PBS you learn about the true obstacles that residents must overcome to change their community. One tragic example among many is Jerome Scott. The budding scientist mentioned above died from un diagnosed Leukemia not long after receiving a full scholarship to college. Despite these terrible circumstances of living in an area with such poverty and violence the youth who work at ECC, the students they teach, and the community they serve are  making a positive difference. I am extremely grateful that they do.