Downey student returns inspired from environmental conference

DOWNEY - Downey student Karina Gonzalez returned home last week after spending four days participating in Keep America Beautiful's national conference in Washington, D.C. Gonzalez, a sophomore at Downey High School, was selected last May as one of 10 students nationwide to serve on the Keep America Beautiful National Youth Advisory Council, taking part in monthly conference calls to discuss environmental issues that affect local communities.

The other students selected were representing Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Tennessee, Texas, Kentucky and New Jersey. Gonzalez represented California.

Gonzalez and her fellow Youth Council members attended the conference in Washington to meet with leaders in the fields of conservation and the environment.

"I was honored to be selected as part of this council, and super excited to go to Washington, D.C. to represent the city of Downey and California," she said. "I look forward to continue working with my fellow Youth Advisory Council to bring Keep America Beautiful's message to our community."

At the conference, Gonzalez shared how youth in Downey help keep parks "butt-free" by conducting regular cigarette litter clean-ups. She also spoke of her involvement with the Downey Bike Coalition and how she and her friends persuaded Downey High students to get on their bikes after educating them on the environmental benefits.

Gonzalez also praised Carol Rowland, head of Keep Downey Beautiful, calling her a "strong mentor...who cares enough to listen to the youth and provide the support needed for beautification and environmental projects."

The conference drew to a close with a tour of the White House.

"I think Karina and I both learned what it takes to be an advocate and leader for the environment and how young leaders can make a difference in their communities," said Brenda Lopez, a Downey Kiwanis Club member who served as chaperone.

After returning home, Gonzalez connected with her campus club, the KIWIN's, and presented new ideas to help her city and school become more environmentally conscious. She said she plans to continue her environmental initiatives with the Kiwanis Green Team over the summer.

She will also continue encouraging teens "to get on their bikes and ride instead of asking their parents for rides."

********** Published: February 14, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 44