Meet our KEYS Americorps Member, Evelyn!

My name is Evelyn, and I’m the newest addition to the Women for a Healthy Environment (WHE) team! I am serving with WHE as an AmeriCorps member until June 2020. AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs that take different approaches to improving lives and fostering civic engagement. My AmeriCorps program is called KEYS, which stands for Knowledge to Empower Youth to Success and is focused specifically on serving at-risk youth in Allegheny County through mentoring, tutoring, and community service in a variety of schools and community organizations. While KEYS members have been serving in Pittsburgh since 1995, I just moved here in August from Northern Virginia after obtaining my Bachelor’s degree in social work from James Madison University. I am incredibly excited to be serving here in such a diverse and lively city

Through the KEYS program, my role with WHE is to facilitate Eco-Schools programming in Pittsburgh public schools. Eco-Schools is a program of the National Wildlife Federation that focuses on environment-based learning and hands-on experiences to empower students to make sustainable choices in their homes, schools, and communities. Students learn about air quality, water, energy, consumption, and other topic areas before brainstorming a school-wide project with the intent to improve their school’s environmental impact and become more sustainable.

Eco-Schools is the largest global sustainable schools program, reaching more than 50,000 schools worldwide! However, currently no Pittsburgh Public Schools are certified eco-schools. Our goal is to get a least one of these schools (if not more!) to become a certified eco-school before the 2019-2020 school year comes to an end. Through this program, schools have found creative and innovative ways to recycle, conserve, and reduce environmental impacts, which can have positive effects school-wide and ripple into the community as well!

We have recently started our programming in Pittsburgh Faison K-5 in Homewood. We are enrichment partners with The Maker’s Clubhouse after-school program, and work with a group of 3rd-5th graders every Monday and Tuesday. Using STEAM and hands-on curriculum, these eco-students have explored the biodiversity on their school grounds, designed landfill liners, constructed towers out of recyclable items, conducted a school-wide energy audit, and learned about how our lungs work to defend our bodies against pollutants!

Next week, our students will learn about water quality and pollution, and will then attempt to construct their own water filters! Within a few weeks our students will be brainstorming project ideas for school sustainability. Whether our students choose to install rain barrels, create a pollinator garden, or start school-wide initiatives to conserve energy, our overall goal for this program is to teach our students that they can make positive changes in their schools and neighborhoods and empower them to continue to make sustainable choices to improve the overall well-being of their communities.