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LOS ANGELES, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Founded by Robina Suwol in 1998, California Safe Schools (CSS) is a children’s environmental health and environmental justice non-profit. CSS achieved national and international prominence by spearheading the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Policy, and for the past 25 years been a leader in protecting children’s health and the environment.

In honor of Earth Day, California Safe Schools celebrates outstanding heroes who strive daily to protect human health and our environment.

California Safe Schools

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2023 Earth Day Heroes:

Patricia Hill began her career in front of the camera, then broke into production as the first female cameraperson. Her credits are innumerable: Cheers, Frasier, M*A*S*H, The Waltons, Everyone Loves Raymond and many others. Patricia has continually used her skills to help others. She documented an irrigation project by the Gambia River, was the photographer for Ted Danson’s American Oceans Campaign later called Oceana, organized a delegation to document human rights violations in Central America and helped lobby in Washington. She also judged animated submissions for the Environmental Media Association.

Qihao Huang is a 12th grade student at Abraham Lincoln High School helping his community as a volunteer with Chinatown Community Equitable Development, Project Angel Food, Teens Leading Change, Chinatown Teen Council, and YUCA. Through his work, he has become aware of the challenges elderly face including language barriers.As a result, he has established his own non-profit to help low-income people as an advocate against gentrification, ensuring access to support and resources. Qihao also participates in community service events such as the Lincoln Park Clean-Up, LA Marathon, and Rose Parade.

Stephanie Lewis is a Senior Environmental Scientist at the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). Her main work focuses on working with California Native American Tribes to ensure that they are aware of investigative and remediation projects that are anticipated to take place on their culturally affiliated and sensitive lands. As an advocate for introducing young people to STEM, Stephanie serves on the board of the Hyde Park Organization Partnership for Empowerment, California Science Center Foundation MUSES program, which funds students to attend science classes, and is chair of the Los Angeles Council of Black Professional Engineers scholarship committee.

Adrian Martinez

Based in Los Angeles, Adrian works on clean air, clean energy, and healthy communities issues as a deputy managing attorney for Earthjustice in its “Right to Zero” campaign. He also serves as the Chair of Earthjustice’s Transportation Practice Group. Adrian currently serves on San Pedro Bay Ports Sustainable Supply Chain Advisory Committee and the California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission Disadvantaged Communities Advisory Committee. He co-teaches a class on Environmental Justice Law at the University of California Los Angeles. Adrian also volunteers on the board of several nonprofits and serves on the advisory board for the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA Law School.

Caroline Martinez

Caroline is a first grader who is no stranger to environmental advocacy. She has attended many hearings with her father, Adrian Martinez of Earth Justice, to advocate for electric buses in Los Angeles. She aspires to be an electric car designer.

Chief Ernie P. Teutimez-Salas, Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians/Kizh Nation

Chief Ernie P. Teutimez -Salas has proven to be the most recognized and most accurately documented, direct lineal-descendant of former native ancestors of Kizh/Gabrieleño Villages or (rancherias), the villages of Sibangna Siba, Tameobit & Atongai / Tamet, from any Gabrieleño Indians in Gabrieleño History. Chief Salas is the grandchild of Nicolas Jose who was a man of great power and had an important part in the rebellion of 1784 at Mission San Gabriel. Chief Salas has taught his Tribe to have self-respect and to keep their culture and way of living alive while being the stewards of the land in its protection and preservation for future generations.

Matthew Teutimez

Matthew Teutimez has been designated by his Tribe to possess and share Kizh-Gabrieleño ecological knowledge and traditional practices taught to him by Chief Ernie P. Teutimez-Salas and Elders of the Kizh-Gabrieleño Tribe. He serves as the Tribal Biologist and Director of Resources, specializing in ethnobotanical and cultural uses of native flora and fauna. Matthew is the founder and executive director he Laboratory for Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS), a non-profit created to integrate and apply indigenous methods and knowledge into environmental stewardship, food, medicine, and land management projects. Matthew is a member of the California Environmental Protection Agency’s (CalEPA) Tribal Advisory Committee; CALEPA’s Community Science Model Workgroup; the City of Los Angeles’ Tree Ambassador Program; and Los Angeles Sanitation & Environment’s Biodiversity Workgroup.

Gabrieleno Band of Mission Indians/Kizh NationKizh (Kitc, Quiichi)

The People of the Willow and Tule Brush Houses.The Kizh name derives from the dome-style dwellings used for houses. For millennia, the Kizh have created a complex and beautiful culture, which included religion, astronomy, rich and varied cuisine, economy, and complex social structures. The Kizh developed ingenious ways to live sustainably from the gifts of the Creator on the land of the Los Angeles Basin and southern Channel Islands. The Kizh were one of two California tribes who mastered boat-building and developed a maritime culture utilizing the resources of the open ocean and coastal estuaries and bays. The lineage of the original people of the Los Angeles Basin still survives today within the Kizh Nation Tribe and its people continue to protect and preserve their cultural heritage, identity, and ancestral lands.

Robina Suwol, founder and executive director of California Safe Schools added, “In honoring these phenomenal self-less individuals, we are acknowledging their tremendous efforts that have resulted in the protection of not only current generations, but future generations to come.”

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