BHS Hosts Green Career Week

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday March 28, 2008

The School of Social Justice and Ecology (SSJE) at Berkeley High School will round up its first Green Career Week with a career fair today (Friday) in the Jacket Gym. 

Open to all high school students, the fair will host booths for more than a dozen participants, including Save the Bay and Elephant Pharmacy. 

Established two years ago as a small school within Berkeley High, SSJE is known for learning expeditions that go beyond the classroom. 

In the past, students have worked on habitat restoration in the bay and dissected banana peels and bubble gum wrappers from their school’s trash cans for better recycling. 

“The idea behind this career week was to show students how they can continue in this theme even after they graduate,” said SSJE teacher Kate Trimlett who helped organize the event. “There’s a whole bunch of opportunities to join the green world or work in social justice today. We want to give kids a push in the right direction.” 

Throughout the week, experts on green businesses practices, sustainable architecture and community health gave hour-long lectures to students followed by question-and-answer sessions about career choices. 

Sophomores Anthony Vaili and Darrian Perry discovered their love for green buildings during a session on green businesses with Chris Avant, president of the Federal Building Company. 

“He went from being a laborer to owning the company,” said Anthony. “All his offices are made from recycled materials. His vehicles run on biodiesel. I want to do the same when I grow up.” 

Darrian, 15, told the Planet that he had learned about the uses of solar panels and other “eco-friendly” appliances for the first time Monday. 

“Sure, I heard about them before, but I didn’t know how they worked,” he said. “Now I am more conscious about the environment and the community. I want to start my own green business one day.” 

Students received career tips from businesses as varied as Oakland Releaf—a tree planting business—and Alameda County’s Office of Rehabilitation. 

“When we studied climate change last week, students got to play with solar panels and learned about alternate fuels at AC Transit,” Trimlett said. “This is taking things to a whole different level. They are getting business cards from professionals and some have even signed up for an internship this year.” 

Since SSJE will be sending out its first graduating class next year, internships will be crucial for seniors. 

The school’s curriculum focuses on science, humanities and math to prepare students for careers in engineering, science and social justice. 

“The kids are definitely asking some good questions,” said Lisa Thompson, a SSJE parent and nurse practitioner at La Clinica de la Raza. “I think this will open them up to more volunteering opportunities ... Help them to focus on one area. This is the time when students start thinking of jobs. Instead of working at Burger King after graduating from high school, they could work at the Ecology Center.” 

UC Berkeley conservation and resource studies major Dale Dualan was preparing to talk with students about his work with Global Community Monitor Wednesday. Dualan spent time with West Berkeley residents last year to help set up an air monitor to test emissions from Pacific Steel Casting. 

“A career fair helps to present high school students with the issue because it’s real,” he said. “It’s in your home, in your neighborhood. I hope my experience will motivate the kids and provide them with some insight. I am not here to advocate anything, it’s all about students developing their own opinion.” 

“All the discussions interest me,” said Olivia Dolorier, a tenth grader. “I don’t just want to work for a big corporation and earn money. I want to do something to give back to the community.” 

More than 35 students came to a session with Alameda County’s Behavioral Health Care Services Rehabilitation Director Theresa Razzano, who heads a program which helps people with mental illnesses get jobs. She encouraged the students to apply for jobs in community health services. 

“What advice can you give us about our career choice?” asked Sadiqua Bynum, a freshman. 

“You want to engage in as many life experiences as possible,” Razzano said. “Every life experience you have gives you a different flavor. You can go stack cans at a grocery store, but does that make your heart beat faster? That’s the question you need to ask yourself.”