Seattle Foundation Blog

#NextGen: Duwamish Valley Youth Corps

A mural project helps young people learn about environmentalism


July 10, 2019

Read this story and more in Volume 6 (pdf) of Seattle Foundation's Heart & Science magazine.

On a Saturday morning in South Park, 16 high school students painted leaping salmon in a meandering river of vivid blues and greens on the wall of a massive concrete building next to the Duwamish Waterway Park. These members of the Duwamish Valley Youth Corps are beautifying their neighborhood park with a mural, while learning about environmental issues like climate justice and green careers.

Paulina Lopez, executive director of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, which runs the youth program, said at the start of the program the kids didn’t talk about climate justice. “But now, they understand that together, they have power through their voice. We want to acknowledge the voice they have as current leaders but also as future decision-makers,” she said.

Friends Elisa Antonio and Deysi Olivera take pride in the painting, designed by Native artist Robert Fernandez, and the tree planting the youth corps has done in the community. “Once you’re here a while, you think that the Duwamish is just a river. This river helps the economy, and it’s also an environmental connection to this place,” said Antonio, 14.

Olivera, 14, said the mural tells the story of how the river was once free flowing and filled with salmon, beavers and birds, before being straightened and harnessed by industry. In the third section of the mural, the Duwamish once more takes its natural, curvilinear form and returns to a healthy ecosystem.

“It’s life changing for me. It changed my whole mindset and career path. I want to be involved with the environment,” said Olivera of the Youth Corps which is supported by grants from the City of Seattle. “I want this for my kid."


Heart & Science Magazine

Read Heat & Science magazine Vol. 6 for more on how philanthropists, community organizations and Seattle Foundation are working to create a healthy community through supporting the environment and arts & culture.

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