Youth corps group
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.

This student did not plan to be an environmentalist. But then ... hear her story. Click To Tweet

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.

Topics: Health, Youth