Is cleaning the air and keeping people in college really that "radical?"

Authors: Markese Bryant, College Ambassador Program

Last week, Congressmember Mike Pompeo of Kansas introduced the "EPA Student Nondiscrimination Act," an effort to prevent funding of an EPA program he deems "radical." The program is the Environmental Justice eco-Ambassador Program, which recruits minority graduate students for a 10-week internship to work with community-based groups addressing issues like asthma and other health effects of pollution in low-income communities. Two million Americans die prematurely as a result of air pollution. One in six African-American children has asthma. But Rep. Pompeo thinks putting resources into a program that would address these problems is too intense, too wild an idea. I wonder if he'd feel the same if his children had to grow up breathing mercury, lead, and particulate matter – things known to cause brain damage, physical disorder, aggravated asthma or chronic bronchitis.

Rep. Pompeo also thinks it's "radical" to help keep people in college. According to the United Negro College Fund, more than 10,000 students were on the verge of being forced to leave school in April of 2009 because they could not pay their bills. According to "Charting a Necessary Path," by the Access to Success Initiative, only 16% of minority students successfully obtain a degree from 2-year institutions. While $6,000 for 10 weeks is not a lot, a paid internship like this one can keep young people in school while providing meaningful work experience.

Attacking programs that create opportunity for underserved students while helping to ensure that families have clean air, clean water and fresh food is shameful.

Dare I say: radical.


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