New Book by Anacostia HS Students, “Through My Anacostia Eyes: Environmental Problems and Possibilities,” Celebrated at UDC

New Book by Anacostia HS Students, “Through My Anacostia Eyes: Environmental Problems and Possibilities,” Celebrated at UDC

November 8, 2023

New Book by Anacostia HS Students,Through My Anacostia Eyes: Environmental Problems and Possibilities,” Celebrated at University of the District of Columbia

(Washington, D.C.) A celebration event hosted today by the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) marked the launch of “Through My Anacostia Eyes: Environmental Problems and Possibilities, a powerful collection of poems, essays and photos, in which Anacostia High School students share stories of love, loss, history, healing and hope for their community and the world.

If I were the Anacostia River, I know what I would see:
trash, bass, Carolina wrens and
skinny branches that have fallen from trees

If I were the Anacostia River, I know what I would hear:
birds chirping, ducks quacking, cars roaring,
and wind blowing in my ear

– from “If I Were the Anacostia River”

The book features 56 photos and 44 written works and was completed in a whirlwind six weeks. The cohort of 12 student authors participated in the summer internship program sponsored by the UDC-DOI Justice40 Initiative, and were the first to work with editor Caroline Brewer to create a book of their reflections on the natural world, inspired by visits to parks around the District, the EPA, DC Water and other agencies, and talks with environmental professionals and activists.

“Through My Anacostia Eyes” is the product of partnerships between UDC, Conservation Nation, editor and Nature-Wise creator Caroline Brewer and the U.S. Department of the Interior with financial support by the Justice40 Initiative and Pepco as part of UDC’s Developing America’s Workforce Nucleus (DAWN) Initiative.

Speakers at the launch event included:

Dr. Maurice Edington, President, University of the District of Columbia

“This is a great example of the possibilities and direct impact of this program. By combining literacy and environmental stewardship these students have found confidence in writing, self-expression, and have become empowered to speak on the environment and the need to protect it.”

Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, Chancellor, DC Public Schools

“Through My Anacostia Eyes provides our students with a beautiful medium to share their lived experiences in the District. I am so proud of our scholars not just for their critical examination and exploration of our city’s natural wonders, but also for using the art of storytelling to fulfill Anacostia High School’s mission of dismantling systems of inequity. Thank you to Ms. Brewer and all our partners for uplifting and amplifying the voices of DCPS students.”

Patrick Gusman, Deputy Chief of Staff, UDC

“A core goal in planning the Environmental Justice Summer Internship with the Department of the Interior has always been to connect District high school students to their environment and inspire them to love the earth. However, the true magic of this internship was experiencing the impact of the program through the students’ own words. By helping students to write poems and publish a book, Caroline Brewer and Nature-Wise are giving high school students a voice that will ultimately heal their environment and broaden their futures.”

Kenneth Walker, Principal, Anacostia High School

“American Author Mary O’Hara once said, ‘Sooner or later every writer evolves his own definition of a story. A reflection of life plus beginning and end and a meaning.’ ‘Through My Anacostia Eyes’ has allowed Anacostia students to provide their reflections of life with a meaning and a definition of a story.”

Caroline Brewer, Editor, “Through My Anacostia Eyes

“Every day in the program I felt watered, nourished by what came pouring out of the students. I recall when we were noting what humans and bees have in common. One of the students suggested, ‘Bees have wings, and so do humans, when we act like angels.’ That was so profound, precious, really — and poetic. That’s what young people do! Given the opportunity, they will take us higher than we imagine, like angels.

“I owe deep appreciation to the students for giving us, in this book, the refreshment, the awesomeness, the contemplative specimen of not just a river but what it can create, a series of waterfalls.”

Xavier Brown, Anacostia Ambassador & Justice40 Summer Internship Coordinator, UDC

“The book project was a beautiful experience. Watching the students push themselves out of their comfort zones — whether they wrote five poems or just one, going to the park, on other field trips, doing the interviews — each experience allowed them to grow. We see that when we invest in these types of programs that keep them safe, keep them engaged, and help them to see beyond what they might have thought they were able to do, the results are amazing.”

Diane Lill, Director of Education, Conservation Nation

“These young authors have demonstrated incredible empathy in describing the world from imagined perspectives of endangered wildlife and of the Anacostia River itself. They’ve also demonstrated a deep understanding of their unique experiences growing up in Southeast DC and about environmental injustice. In this book, Anacostia students give us a glimpse of the tremendous creativity, vision, passion, and beauty that can be found inside themselves and in their home base of Anacostia.”

Lynn Mento, CEO, Conservation Nation

“Every child deserves abundant access to nature and to feel, rightfully and confidently, like a wildlife champion. Every child also needs time to reflect on their feelings of belonging in nature, along with their fears and hopes for the future. This book is a brilliant testament to the power of nature and Anacostia’s students as sources of inspiration.  At Conservation Nation, we are excited about investing in and collaborating with today’s young people because they will be our environmental stewards for generations to come.”

Jeannine Hodge, Librarian, Anacostia High School

“Storytelling is essential to the growth and development of readers and writers. It is (an example of) the impact of literacy and the pathway to visionary leadership.”

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About the University of the District of Columbia: The only public university in the nation’s capital and the only exclusively urban land-grant university in the United States, the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) is a historically Black university committed to a broad mission of education, research and community service. Established by abolitionist Myrtilla Miner in 1851, UDC offers workforce training, professional certification and more than 80 undergraduate and graduate degrees designed to create opportunities for student success. The University comprises a College of Arts and Sciences; School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; School of Business and Public Administration; College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences; Community College; the David A. Clarke School of Law; and Division of Workforce Development and Lifelong Learning.