Photo: Courtesy of Shelina Lal.

Georgetown and South Park sit on opposite sides of the Duwamish River on Seattle’s south side. They’re hubs of activity, with factories, a shipping port, train tracks, and major roadways. The area has some of the region’s worst air pollution.

The poor air quality contributes to a life expectancy that is more than a decade shorter than some of Seattle’s other neighborhoods.

Lal: “The pollution is super high.”

High school student Shelina Lal wants to change that. When she was 14, she joined the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps. It’s a job training program that engages teens in projects that improve their community’s health and environment.

She helped install rain gardens, plant trees, and build a green wall. It’s a plant-covered barrier that separates industrial from residential areas. The plants help filter pollutants out of the air. Lal did not plan to be an environmentalist.

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Lal: “When I was growing up, I never thought I would be doing anything good, honestly, my neighborhood’s kind of scary. But my aunt grabbed me, she told me about this, and I was like ‘ok, I’ll try it’ and I did, and I absolutely loved it. Knowing that I did something like that, like helping a whole bunch of people, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Reporting credit: Mark Knapp/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Eileen Mignoni

Eileen Mignoni is a South Florida-based visual journalist who has been working on stories about science, the environment, and energy for nearly 10 years. In addition to her work at Yale Climate Connections,...