WLAC and CCHS – Together for Climate Action, Native American Heritage

In sync with the International Day of Climate Action and leading into Native American Heritage Month, Culver City High Students were among more than 700 participants gathered at West Los Angeles College on October 24-26 for the campus’ inaugural Climate Action Palooza, a three-day summit focused on activism, environmental justice, and workforce development for future green-collar jobs. Local high school and college students, environmental activists, creatives, industry leaders, and policymakers tackled climate change from three vantage points: youth activism, gaming, and workforce development.

The palooza began with a land acknowledgement and dancing performed by members of the Tongva Gabrielino, Navajo, Yankton Sioux, Paiute tribes. Students joined dancers and other participants in a community dance circle to set the tone for the day.

Wanjiku “Wawa” Gatheru, a 24-year-old world-renowned environmental justice activist and influencer headlined the conference’s opening day on October 24. She encouraged more than 400 students to “live revolution” to reduce the harmful effects of climate change and to inspire early youth activism. On Day 2, the college’s Creativity Lab hosted a green hackathon with 250 participants attempting to create awareness and thought around solutions via gaming. VIP guest judges included Chacko Sonny, Gaming Division at Netflix, and award-winning YA author Dana Claire who also provided an interactive presentation on world building.

On Day 3 (October 26), guest speakers AssemblymemberIsaac G. Bryan (D-55, Los Angeles), Stephen Cheung, President and CEO, LA County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), LACCD Chancellor Dr. Francisco C. Rodriguez, and West LA College president Dr. Jim Limbaugh, joined 75 business leaders and climate policymakers as they forecasted the future green job market. Keynote speaker Dr. Robert Fofrich from UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability challenged policy experts to identify new college curricula and training programs for careers in the green economy.

“West LA College is uniquely positioned to serve as a good model for the state’s focus on environmental education. I have no doubt our future environmental leaders are being developed here at West, and they will find solutions to help fight climate change. More than ever, we face an urgent climate crisis, and the consequences of getting it wrong couldn’t be more dire, which is why I am proud of the work being done here at West LA College to make a difference. I’m optimistic about the excellent work ahead,” said Assemblymember Bryan.

“Climate change education is critical to developing new workforce models across community colleges. Many of our students come from under-resourced communities, and research shows these communities are disproportionately impacted and are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Bringing together students, researchers, policymakers, practitioners, non-profit leaders, and educators will help us to better understand the importance of our roles as environmentally conscious stewards and advocates for a clean environment within our communities,” said Chancellor Rodriguez.

“In addition to West being unique among California community colleges in offering a degree in Climate Change Studies, we frame the issues not just scientifically but as an issue of social equity,” said President Limbaugh. “Climate change is truly the most significant issue facing all of humanity, and if we fail to actively confront it, all the other skills and preparation we provide in colleges become irrelevant.”

“As we transition into the new green economy, we need a workforce and business leaders who are innovative about how industries can help us move from our dependency on fossil fuels to this higher new paradigm. Our goal is to support the next generation of leaders who will shape our economy,” said Mr. Cheung.

With the creation of its California Center for Climate Education, West LA College is the new, green epicenter for environmental education and innovation. The Center is focused exclusively on climate change solutions, and job creation to meet the demands of the future workforce. The Center was funded through a $5-million state allocation (AB 1913 – CA Assemblymember Isaac Bryan) and $1.3 million in federal dollars from then-Congresswoman Karen Bass and Senator Alex Padilla. Subsequently, West boasts the – first and only – degree and certificate programs in Climate Change & Environmental Studies among the 116 California community colleges.

Miya Walker


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