EJ apprentices

Investing in Tomorrow: EJ Apprentices Transforming Communities

Quick Summary

  • Three masters students in the Graduate Program of Environmental Policy and Management recently completed their environmental justice focused Practicum projects in collaboration with three nonprofit organizations.


Launched in Spring 2023, the Environmental Justice Apprenticeship Program provides financial support to up to 4 masters students in the Graduate Program of Environmental Policy and Management to pursue an environmental justice focused Practicum Internship projects in partnership with a nonprofit organization. The goal of the program is to provide support to nonprofit and community-based organizations as well as to connect students with leadership opportunities working with frontline communities. Since this program began, three students have been awarded this funding and have recently completed their projects. 

Air quality monitoring in South San Francisco

JieQi Yan worked with Rise South City, an organization in South San Francisco who aims to create a new center of gravity in the climate movement by uniting frontline communities, allies and organizations towards resilient, regenerative and equitable neighborhoods (Rise South City, 2023). For this project, JieQi gathered comprehensive localized air pollution data and identify sensitive receptor locations in South San Francisco. Air pollution sources analyzed for this project included permitted stationary sources, highway/road traffic, and oil and gas wells. JieQi conducted a statistical analysis of the health impacts of the pollution sources, focusing on parameters such as cancer risk, chronic hazard index and PM 2.5 concentrations. Using the analysis, JieQi identified several sensitive sensor sites in areas with high pollution levels. These sites included childcare facilities, nursing homes, schools and community parks and were previously not covered by an air quality monitor. Based on her findings, JieQi wrote a final report outlining the project methodology, results and future recommendations. Maps were also created as part of this project and can be viewed here.

Regarding her experience, JieQi commented My time with Rise South City has allowed me to further develop my GIS skills. Although I have a GIS certificate and have conducted GIS labs, this project was my first application of GIS that had a direct community impact. However, my major takeaway isn't related to the project's development, but rather the barriers encountered following the initial qualitative analysis. For instance, my air quality vulnerability map of South San Francisco highlights gaps in PurpleAir monitoring distribution. These regions are also identified as disadvantaged communities under SB 535, which complicates the placement of monitors in my recommended locations in terms of management. Communities in this area often face unstable WiFi service, and Rise SC believes in compensating families who house the monitors to ensure equity, leading to funding challenges. On a positive note, Rise South City and Julio’s team have recently received a large grant from the CARB Office of Community Air Protection Community Air Grant Program. Starting January, I will continue my work with Rise South City through the organization’s collaboration with Dr. Clare Cannon’s Toxic Air Pollutants in California Environmental Justice Communities project.” 

View JieQi's map here

Highlighting investment opportunities for Sacramento

Liam Huber worked with the Environmental Council of Sacramento, a local organization that has worked for over fifty years to curb sprawl and protect open space and habitat; as well as to expand transit, walking and biking networks (ECOS, 2023). Liam worked to evaluate opportunities for tax revenue allocation to help Sacramento achieve climate mitigation and environmental justice goals, with the focus on increasing urban green space, investing in public and active transportation and affordable housing. 

Liam studied the possibilities of Measure C, which is slated for the ballot in November 2024. Measure C represents a critical opportunity to raise funding for climate-related projects in and around Sacramento, but the question remains as to which projects and areas are in most need of that funding. Using ArcGIS, Liam compiled information from demographic and environmental datasets to reveal the potential for targeted, impactful investments in open spaces, public transportation and affordable housing. Liam also conducted research on Measure A, which is Sacramento County's existing transportation funding tax measure in order to evaluate the current state of tax funding in Sacramento County related to climate projects. The goal of this analysis is to develop lessons that could be applied to a future Measure C.  Liam's research focused on expenditure plans, budgets, revenue projects, polling information and reports available from the Sacramento Transit Authority. 

Liam stated "My practicum introduced me to a whole new world of city planning, and demonstrated how grassroots advocates and city planners are on the front lines of fighting for climate action and environmental justice. I took away new skills in project management and policy research, coupled with a deeper appreciation for the puzzle-box nature of making positive change happen at the local and regional scale." 

View Liam's GIS slides here

View Liam's Measure A PowerPoint here

Evaluating Los Angeles County's Safe Clean Water Program (SCWP)

Tara Khan worked with Heal the Bay, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making coastal waters in the Great Los Angeles area safe, healthy and clean through science, education, community action and advocacy. For this project, Tara reviewed the Los Angeles County’s Safe Clean Water Program (SCWP), its equity considerations and the project benefits to disadvantaged communities. The equity report included a summary of findings from studies done by the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, Stantec and Scope-LA. Tara also conducted informational interviews with Scope-LA, Pacoima Beautiful and Heal the Bay to inform the report. During her research, Tara noted similar equity complaints, namely that the SCWP failed to provide a definition of a disadvantaged community benefit, which made it easy for any project to claim those benefits even if they did not directly serve disadvantaged communities. Tara’s report will be used by Heal the Bay as they engage with policymakers at the biennial review of the SCWP. 

The other piece of Tara’s project included an educational document for community members that outlined projects funded by the Safe Clean Water Program and information on how those communities might access funding. The document was provided to Pacoima Beautiful for translation and distribution to the local community. Of this opportunity, Tara commented My time with Heal the Bay gave me the opportunity to see how the public process works from the inside. Advocacy organisations bridge the gap between government, environment, and local communities, providing a very real-world application of environmental justice within policy work. Through this practicum, I gained a better understanding of the role of advocacy as a voice for the people, and an appreciation for the importance of environmental communication and community engagement in EJ work.” 

View Tara's SCWP report here

View Tara's educational document here

About the Environmental Justice Apprenticeship Program

This program is administered by the Graduate Program of Environmental Policy and Management with funding provided by the UC Davis Institute of the Environment. We'd like to extend a huge thanks to the Institute of the Environment for providing these types of opportunities for students to grow as engaged leaders. We'd also like to extend a huge thank you to Heal the Bay, Rise South City and ECOS Sacramento for hosting JieQi, Liam and Tara.

You can learn more about the EJ Apprenticeship Program here.