Gisela Martinez is aiming for a career in the medical or biology field after leaving high school. That could change, though, after attending the Environmental Summit Cultural Exchange as part of the Long Beach-Yokkaichi Sister City Association trip.
Martinez, a senior at Long Beach Poly, and three other area high school students will visit Yokkaichi, Japan, later this month to exchange environmental ideas. The program aims to promote youth leadership for a global society. It brings together students to create pragmatic solutions to environmental issues facing their home port cities.
“I want to learn more about what Yokkaichi is doing for their environment and how we compare,” Martinez said, adding that it could lead to studying environmental science in college.
Martinez will be joined by fellow Poly students Cassidy Hunt, KC Hunt and Jason Sun. They will be chaperoned by Cal State Long Beach professor Elaine Bernal.
Sun, who is headed to Long Beach College this fall, said his interest in attending the Summit was piqued by the recent talk about climate change. “I want to expand my knowledge and bring it back to the United States,” he said.
Before heading to Japan later this month, the students were expected to participate in a series of events leading up to the trip. The activities included field trips to the Water Replenishment District of Southern California, Thums Islands (Long Beach’s petroleum source), Covanta Waste Energy Plant, Port of Long Beach and Cabrillo Aquarium.
Martinez said she was particularly intrigue by Thums Island’s ability to maintain its pristine surroundings despite its oil production.
The cultural exchange began in 2007 when former Yokkaichi Mayor Tetsuo Inoue proposed that a group of Long Beach students visit his country to discuss environmental problems with students from Japan and China.
Last year, the students met the mayor before heading to the Yokkaichi Pollution and Environmental Museum for Future Awareness and Planetarium. They learned how Yokkaichi became a city for trade and industry, and the causes and damages of the city's previous fatal air quality.
This year will include one stop at an environmental facility during the students’ eight-day trip.
“After the trip, I am looking forward to students having a strong sense of environmental advocacy and social responsibility,” said Bernal, who coordinates the internship program for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. “I want them to see that they and their peers from China and Japan have a tremendous impact in creating future innovation in environmental science and technology.”
Also headed to Japan are fellow Poly students Lilly Brossus and Aidan Harper as part of a Trio Cultural Exchange. They will serve as “goodwill ambassadors.” Teacher Marybeth Murray, who works in the Long Beach Unified School District, will oversee their trip.