Students participate in campus Earth Day celebration

By Vivian Ramirez

Green living was in full display at East Los Angeles College in celebration of Earth Day last Wednesday.

The event, sponsored by the Mathematics, Engineering, Science, and Achievement Program (MESA), invited local middle and high schools for presentations and information about making the Earth a greener place.

Established in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day is celebrated by over one billion people around the globe and has affected the recycling rate from 6.6 percent in 1970, to 34.1 percent today.

The event started with an assembly in the G3 auditorium with a keynote address from ELAC Associate Professor of Chemistry and MESA Program Director, Armando Rivera-Figueroa, PhD.

“What I want students to take away from all this is that they can come to ELAC and prepare to go to a university where they can get a degree in the STEM fields,” said Rivera.

Also present at the assembly was Education Programs Manager for the Southern California Earthquake Center and NSF and USGS Center, Robert M. de Groot, PhD.

“You’re never too young to make a difference,” said de Groot.  His research has taken him from the lab to the field studying stratospheric clouds, California’s faults, river ecology, and enzyme biochemistry.

“Creativity is very important. Be an artist and a scientist at the same time,” he said. “The most important three things to succeed are your community, creativity, and persistence.”

Following the speeches, the students were led to the stadium parking lot where there were about 14 educational booths and supporters of Earth Day. A major attraction to old and young was the hydrogen-fueled car, Honda’s FCX Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV).

The car goes up to 240 miles on one tank of hydrogen fuel.  “I didn’t know that a car could run without gas,” said Raul Martinez, 13, a student from John Adams Middle School.

According to its website, the Honda FCX is a fully electric car, combining hydrogen with oxygen to make electricity. The motor runs on this electricity which propels the car into motion. Water is the only byproduct of the vehicle.

The car is currently only available for a $600 monthly lease for residents of select areas and can be refueled at 10 hydrogen stations free of charge.

Students were also given the opportunity to hatch live Grunion at the event. The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium was there to talk about marine life and the ocean’s inhabitants. The hatching of the fish is possible when fish lay their eggs in sand, which is then collected in a small container.

“The biggest education we are trying to achieve is that even though these students may not live near the ocean, they still have an impact on it,” said Matthew King, a representative from Heal the Bay.

When the container is filled with water and mixed around, the eggs begin to hatch and little Grunion  begin to swim.  Also attractive to many students was information about worm compost from the Los Angeles County –operated Smart Gardening Program.

Worm composting, or vermicomposting, operates with scraps of fruits and vegetables. All that is required for this process is a container filled with moistened bedding, worms, and food scraps.

After a few weeks, the worms work with micro-organisms to convert the food scraps into compost that can be used as an organic fertilizer. A schedule for free composting workshops is available through their website at

“Earth Day at ELAC was a good experience,” said Rodolfo Valasio, a freshman at Bell High School. Valasio aspires to attend MIT to study Biochemical Engineering. “I learned about water purification and recycling,” he said.

Vanessa Gandarilla, a sixth grader from John Adams Middle School said, “I learned how to save energy and how we can have clean air.”

ELAC has already taken steps to becoming a green campus by using methods such as conserving and reusing energy and constructing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings.

Claudia Urquiza, Gabriela Gomez, Gustavo Barrera, Maxine Casillas, Jamie Lopez, Raul Garcia, Jesus Figueroa and Giovanni Escutia contributed to this story.

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