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A Legacy of Environmental Stewardship Lives on in Clayton County

In Clayton County, the spirit of environmental stewardship is alive and thriving, thanks in no small part to the tireless efforts of teachers like Jada Hargrove. Jada’s journey from a passionate student to a dedicated educator and environmental advocate is a testament to the power of local action in driving significant change.

A Journey from Student to Educator

Jada’s story began at Charles R. Drew High School, where as a student she served as the Vice President of the campus science club, Youth Empowerment of Environmental Awareness (Y.E.E.A). Spurred by the spark the club ignited, she continued to support the club from afar, even after graduation.

In 2018, Jada’s mentor and the club’s founder, Kenya Durley, passed away after battling cancer. This profound loss inspired Jada to continue Kenya’s legacy. Despite a detour in her career due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which interrupted her collegiate basketball journey at Alcorn State University, Jada found her path back to her alma mater in 2021, where she now teaches Biology and AP Environmental Science. When Jada returned to Charles Drew HS, she co-sponsored the YEEA Club with Kenneth Chong, bringing the same passion and dedication to her students that Kenya had once shown her.

Jada Hargrove (kneeling, far left) snapping a picture with YEEA’s Class of 2024 graduating Seniors

The Importance of Environmental Stewardship

For Jada, promoting environmental stewardship and a passion for science among students is not just a professional duty but a deeply personal mission. “School is where students learn the proper way to live,” she explains. “This can be socially, mentally, or physically; nevertheless, it ensures that the kids learn necessary basics. They deserve to be knowledgeable about the environmental qualities that impact their everyday life.”

Jada believes that understanding critical issues like air quality, water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change is essential for students. By educating them about these topics, she hopes to instill a sense of responsibility and respect for the planet. “Having students understand the beauty of our planet ensures that our future leaders understand their role in preserving it for future generations,” she says.

Highlights of Recent YEEA Projects

Under Jada’s guidance, the YEEA Club has undertaken several impactful projects in the past school year:

    • Earth Week Tree Planting: In collaboration with the Psi Alpha Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, students planted trees to celebrate Earth Week.
    • Recycling Program: Partnering with Keep Riverdale Beautiful and sponsored by Nancy Howard, the club focused on recycling plastics and paper.
    • Keep Drew Clean: This initiative, also with Keep Riverdale Beautiful, saw over 100 volunteer hours contributed by 20 club members to clean up the school and surrounding areas.
    • Climate Justice Winner: The club developed a safety plan for the planet, earning a district-level climate justice award for Clayton County.
    • Homecoming Week Clean Up: During Homecoming Parade/Spirit Week, students organized a cleanup event to ensure a cleaner, more beautiful community.

Observing Changes and Taking Action

Over the years, Jada has observed noticeable changes in the air quality in her community. Factors such as transportation, pollution, and the proximity to a major airport have contributed to these changes. Recently, an increase in pollen levels has led to respiratory issues, allergic reactions, and other health problems for the community which have compounded with existing environmental stressors. These observations have only strengthened Jada’s resolve to educate and engage her students in environmental initiatives.

Inspiring the Next Generation

As an educator, Jada’s vision for the future includes bridging the gap in STEM careers and inspiring students to pursue careers and scholarships that contribute to environmental preservation. “I plan to continue to evolve and better adapt to the world’s changes,” she asserts. Jada’s goal is to get students excited about next-level opportunities in STEM fields, ensuring that they are well-prepared to tackle the environmental challenges of tomorrow.

Jada’s dedication and passion for environmental stewardship serve as a powerful reminder of the impact one person can have on their community. By fostering a sense of responsibility and encouraging collective action, she and her students champion for a healthier community.

Both Jada’s personal journey and the YEEA Club’s achievements highlight the importance of local action in creating lasting, positive change right in our backyards.