Queens Climate Justice Fellows Aim to Collaborate with Environmental Organizations

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY (March 01, 2023) — There are many environmentalists who advocate for endangered species, however, what happens when people’s lives are also at risk, because of the same environmental hazards? This is where environmental justice, activism that focuses on people and their right to a safe living environment, comes into the discussion.

Recently, LaGuardia Community College collaborated with Queens College to establish the Queens Climate Justice Fellows program to offer students the opportunity to learn about the intersection between both social justice and environmentalism, where the inequality of who is being impacted is also considered.

The program was started as a conversation between Dr. Natalie Bump Vena and Ryan Mann-Hamilton, associate professor of Anthropology, Latin American and Caribbean Studies. who are both involved in various Environmental Justice initiatives.

“We decided to apply to the CUNY’s Black, Race and Ethnic Studies Initiative (BRESI) as a cross campus Queens coalition/collaboration,” said Professor Mann-Hamilton. “There are fewer environmental justice organizations in Queens than many of the other Boroughs so we decided the emphasis would be on Queens and linking to various environmental orgs in the area.”

Mann-Hamilton who is also co-director Casa de las Americas, the first center at a CUNY community college offering comprehensive academic and career services to Latinx students from all countries of the Americas, said he hopes the students will get experience working hands-on with different organizations that are geared towards Climate and Environmental Justice initiatives.

“Many of the opportunities are unpaid, so our efforts were to raise the funds to compensate the fellows who are part of the program,” he said. “We secured $35,000 from BRESI to pay for 13 students total to work with us, six from LAGCC and seven from Queens. In addition, we will have 5 full cohort sessions where the students get to share their experiences and perspectives. We will also invite guest speakers at each session who deal with different issues such as energy, water, food justice and other pertinent themes.”

The LaGuardia students participating in the first cohort of the fellows program include: Caroline Corwin, environmental studies major; Annie Gugliotta, environmental science major; Bunie Joseph, biology major; Abdoul-Aziz Ouedraogo, applied science major; and Alan Cantos, biology major.

Environmental disasters, like earthquakes, hurricanes, and floods, continue to ravage communities all over the country and the world. Unfairly, vulnerable communities pay the highest price for environmental damage, and many communities don’t have the luxury of a physical barrier between them and environmental hazards.

Seeing this level of impact on people’s lives can make it difficult for some to believe anything can be done. Professor Mann-Hamilton hopes the Queens Climate Justice Fellows will gain the experience to inspire them to do more.

“The biggest challenge is getting folks to believe that they can have an impact on such a large process as climate change, but every action counts,” said Professor Mann-Hamilton. “They (participating students) will be the frontline, sharing their experiences and interest with others. This also fits into the larger idea of having an environmental focus for all focus across the CUNY campuses.”

As the program continues to build momentum by establishing partnerships with community organizations, Mann-Hamilton hopes to “expand the organizations we partner with and the number of students who participate, but it will rely on securing additional funding,” he said. “We have long standing relations with some of the organizations, and they have already asked for this program to continue.”

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LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), located in Long Island City, Queens, educates thousands of New Yorkers annually through degree, certificate, and continuing education programs. LaGuardia is a national voice on behalf of community colleges, where half of all U.S. college students study. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his championing the underserved. Since our doors opened in 1971, our programs regularly become national models for pushing boundaries to give people of all backgrounds access to a high quality, affordable college education.


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