The AjA Project: Photography Programs for San Diego Youth

Our Atmosphere by My Tien Danh and Magnifique Tuyisabe

01_IMAGE_ENVIRO_MT Photo by Magnifique Tuyisabe

During the 2013 annual California Clean-Up Day nearly 60,000 Californians volunteered to cleanup shorelines and inland waterways, and removed 750,000 pounds of trash and recyclables…Where is all this trash coming from? –

“All the rainwater is collecting oil and trash from the streets and from our canyons,” said Christina Contreras, College Career Coordinator at Ocean’s Discovery Institute in City Heights. “Pipes from our canyons and our streets transport trash directly into the ocean.”

02_IMAGE_ENVIRO_MTPhoto by Magnifique Tuyisabe

There is not a place in the world where you won’t find trash. Trash destroys the beauty of the environment, contaminates our water and negatively impacts our wildlife.

At Hoover High School in City Heights, the sight of trash is nothing new. You find it down the drains, in the back and front quads, and where students eat and hang out. Trash being discarded recklessly has a negative impact on the environment, especially the ocean, because it flows through the drains.
“The next time you walk down the street, look around. When it rains, trash on our sidewalks and streets accumulates in the gutter and it is swept into storm drains. Most storm drain systems do not have filters, and therefore discharge directly into the nearest creek or river, eventually flowing into the ocean.”

03_IMAGE_ENVIRO_MTPhoto by Magnifique Tuyisabe

Jose , custodian at Hoover High School, is responsible for picking up the trash of over 2,000 students and keeping Hoover High School clean.

04_IMAGE_ENVIRO_MTDPhoto by My Tien Danh

One thing we can all do is be vigilant about (disposing of and picking up) trash,” said Contreras. “If we do this, there will be less trash and pollution in the ocean, fewer ocean animals dying, and the earth can return to a state of health and beauty.”

05_IMAGE_ENVIRO_MTDPhoto by My Tien Danh

Ocean’s Discovery Institute (ODI) uses ocean science to empower young people from underserved urban communities to transform their lives, their community, and our world as scientific and conservation leaders. Based in City Heights, ODI delivers rigorous educational, scientific research, and environmental stewardship experiences that build curiosity, science understanding and skills, and leadership in underserved young people from kid to career.“One of the biggest projects we do in City Heights is our Canyon Clean-Up’s,” said Contreras. “We invite the whole community of City Heights to come out, students and their families alike.”

06_IMAGE_ENVIRO_MTDPhoto by My Tien Danh

Everyone has their part to play in keeping the environment clean.

Emanuel Ramirez, Junior at Hoover High School and Ocean’s Discovery Institute (ODI) mentor has been with the organization since the 5th grade. He is now paying it forward and working with future mentors of ODI at Monroe Clark Middle School in City Heights.
“Ocean’s Discovery Institute is important to our community,” Ramirez said. “They teach kids things about science and we learn about our impact on the oceans. These are things kids from our community would never have learned otherwise.”

How can you help? Pick up a piece of trash today! The next California Costal Cleanup Day is Saturday, September 17, 2016. For more information on how to keep our community and coastal cities clean, go to