fresh voices for clean air

Local nonprofit is seeking teens for ‘Fresh Voices for Clean Air’ youth education initiative

Photo above by engin akyurt used by permission via Unsplash.

Allegheny County students who want to help improve the environment have a new opportunity: The Pittsburgh-based Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) is seeking local teens to join an innovative program called Fresh Voices for Clean Air. 

Here’s how it will work:

GASP will pair a small group of high school students in Allegheny County with a group of their peers in Birmingham, Ala., for a school year-long collaborative partnership. Throughout 2022-23, the cohorts in each city will meet virtually to talk with each other and with guest speakers. Together, the team will learn more about air quality while building the skills necessary to become effective environmental advocates.

By the end of the program year, the team will have created, developed and executed an air quality-related project of their own choosing, with the support of adult mentors in Pittsburgh and Birmingham. And upon successful completion of the program year, participating teens will earn a $100 award.

Fresh Voices for Clean Air has grown out of an ongoing partnership between Pittsburgh’s GASP and Greater-Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution (also GASP), a non-profit working in the greater-Birmingham area in Alabama to advance healthy air and environmental justice through education, advocacy, and organizing.

“Like us, they strive to reduce air pollution, educate the public on the health risks associated with poor air quality, and encourage community leaders to serve as role models for clean air and clean energy development,” says Patrick Campbell, executive director of Pittsburgh’s GASP. “We’re excited for the opportunity to partner with our friends in Birmingham and can’t wait to see what the students come up with this time.”

The program will run through the 2022-23 academic year and is open to students in grades 9, 10, and 11 who attend school in Allegheny County or Jefferson County, Ala. Students must be willing and able to participate until the end of the school year in May 2023. They will need access to a computer, tablet or smartphone to take part in virtual meetings, as well as written consent from a parent or guardian.

The deadline to apply is Monday, Sept. 12. (Get more info about Fresh Voices for Clean Air and apply here.)

GASP air quality educator Laura Kuster said she was impressed by last year’s participants not only for their work, but for their passion and commitment to environmental advocacy.

“The students loved hearing from a wide variety of guest speakers, and those speakers valued interacting with the students even more,” Kuster said. “It’s inspiring to engage in conversations about air quality and the environment with our Fresh Voices participants, and I often think back to their perspectives and insights while doing my work.”

GASP Birmingham Executive Director Michael Hansen is looking forward to the joint program as well: “We are so excited to work with students in the Birmingham and Pittsburgh areas through Fresh Voices. This program creates an opportunity for young people impacted by air pollution to collaborate and find common ground. Together, we’re going to learn about air pollution and environmental health, share our stories, and craft solutions to the problems facing our communities.” 

Families who need more information before committing to the program can meet program advisors and learn more at a virtual info session beginning at 4 p.m. on Thurs., Sept. 1. Register here for that session. 

Looking for more ways to help kids and teens use their voices to make the world a better place? Check out Kidsburgh’s youth voice learning guide.