Anacostia students explore environmental issues in new book

Anacostia students explore environmental issues in new book

Anacostia students explore environmental issues in new book

Anacostia Thru Our Eyes
Back row: President Edington, DC Chancellor Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee, Germaine Williams, DeWand Hemsley, DeMirio Wimbush, Keveon Graves, Marcus Williams, Conservation Nation Education Director Diane Lill, Anacostia High School Principal Kenneth Walker, children’s book author Caroline Brewer, Anacostia High School Career Academies Director Angela Benjamin. Front row: UDC Anacostia Ambassador Xavier Brown, Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, NeKaeyla Roach, Anacostia High School Librarian Jeannine Hodge (standing) and Kahri Borum.

A group of Anacostia High School students who participated in a summer internship program sponsored by UDC and the U.S. Department of Interior’s Justice 40 Initiative wrote a book about their experiences and celebrated with a book launch at UDC’s Theater of the Arts on November 8.

The book, “Through My Anacostia Eyes: Environmental Problems and Possibilities,” is available for purchase online and at local bookstores. It “tells the story of environmental love, loss, history, mystery, hope, reclamation and anticipation in the natural world through the lens of the Anacostia neighborhood and Washington, DC.”

“Through My Anacostia Eyes” comprises 56 photos and 44 essays, poems and reports by students in grades 10 through 12 and some of the program’s staff. It was completed in six weeks and was sponsored by Conversation Nation, a national organization that helps underrepresented youth learn about conservation careers.

The book was edited by Caroline Brewer, a DC-based author, consultant and creator of Nature-Wise, a professional development and student engagement program that encourages K-12 outdoor exploration and literacy.

UDC President Maurice D. Edington, Ph.D., Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White, DC Public Schools Chancellor Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee as well as a host of Conservation Nation, Pepco, UDC and Anacostia High School officials attended the event.

Edington said he was floored by the candidness of the students’ work.

“Each of you poets, whether you’re writing about the beauty of the local environment or the nuances of your daily life in Southeast DC, you express yourselves with raw honesty,” said Edington. It is impactful reading that, and at UDC, we are very proud of this partnership. It’s a stunning example of what’s possible when students, educators and public and private partners all work together toward a common goal, and in this case, it’s the critical goal of giving a voice to our youth on an issue that cuts to the very core of human existence – the future of our natural world,” he said.

“To our DCPS students, I encourage you to continue your journey, which may possibly end up here at UDC and consider joining the Firebird nation,” Edington said. “Even if your first step is somewhere else, just know we have graduate and professional programs to get you to where you’re trying to go, but wherever you go, just know one thing: we support you. We believe in you, and we will always be here for you. This is your University, whether you attend or not, and I will encourage you to take full advantage of the people and the resources that we have here to offer you.

“And to the broader audience, let me as the new President, affirm my commitment to supporting and promoting projects like these in the future, collaborations that enrich the lives of local students and infuse all lives with the vitality of self-expression,” he said.

Each student read excerpts of the book on stage during the program.

NeKaeyla Roach, a senior, read her poem, “What You Don’t Know by Looking at Me,” which describes what it’s like growing up in Southeast DC. She said she learned about her peers while working on the book. She plans to study law when she graduates because she loves speaking and being a voice for people who don’t have a voice.

In his poem, junior Germaine Williams described himself as coming from a street where “they light fireworks 24/7,” and as someone who knows who he is and what he wants to be. He said that working on the book allowed him to share his feelings and hear those of his peers. When he graduates, he plans to become a paramedic.

Keveon Graves, a junior, read his poem, “If I Were a Leech.” He said he likes writing, so working on the book played to his strengths. He wants to major in computer science when he graduates. Being in the internship program has motivated him to have a garden in his backyard when he’s old enough to buy a house.

In his take on “What You Don’t Know by Looking at Me,” senior Jeremiah Wright wrote that he comes from a big family, “so big that it seems it could fill a football stadium.” He also described himself as motivated, which shows, as he is both a basketball player and quarterback for the Anacostia football team. Wright said that working on the book allowed him to shed light on himself and his peers. When he graduates, he wants to play football in the NFL and study technology.

Khari Bourum, a senior, read her poem, “If I Were a Blue Jay.” She said working on the book has meant a lot, and she was excited to see the finished product. She plans to be a psychologist when she graduates and support the needs of her community.

DeWand Hemsley, a senior and salutatorian for his class, read his poem, which described his home life, his goals and his experience growing up in his neighborhood. He said he and his peers were excited to contribute to the book. His career goals include becoming a teacher, a real estate agent or a professional football player.

DeMirio Winbush, a senior, read his poem, “If I Were a Robin,” which describes what he would see in Anacostia. He said working on the book was a rare opportunity, which helped him learn a lot about his community and the environment. He wants to study kinesiology and be a physical therapist.

In his reading of, “What You Don’t Know by Looking at Me,” junior Marcus Williams described himself as “a summer baby who loves the winter” and as an advocate for his community. He said he was told to be a leader, not a follower. Williams said the program allowed him the opportunity to go outside, explore new things and push himself outside his comfort zone. When he graduates, he wants to study geological engineering. He said the program allowed him to see how to help the environment.

The students were also featured in an EPA commercial highlighting the work of the Anacostia Urban Waters Federal Partnership, emphasizing the internship program.