The #BecauseofYouth series highlights young environmentalists in MCE’s service area who are leading the fight against climate change. The views, opinions, and beliefs expressed here are not necessarily representative of the views, opinions, and beliefs of MCE as an agency.
Kevin Ruano Hernandez is a climate activist from Richmond and senior at Pinole Valley High School. Kevin is a member of the Richmond/San Pablo Steering Committee for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District) Community Emission Reduction Plan, where he focuses on improving air quality. He is also an advisory member of the Pinole Environment and Sustainability Taskforce and part of several environmental nonprofit organizations. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? I grew up in Richmond and San Pablo. I was introduced to environmentalism through my Career Pathways internship with the Air District. During the internship, I built relationships with local nonprofits like Groundwork Richmond that are fighting for environmental justice. I have since joined many of these organizations as a volunteer and committee member. I am a member of the feminist club, the vice president of the mural preservation society, a member of the African American Student Union and the Health Academy Leadership. I am also the chief editor for my school’s newspaper, and I am on the Pinole Environment and Sustainability Taskforce. It’s great being involved in my own community and having the opportunity to educate myself about environmental issues. Have you seen environmental justice issues in your community? I think most people you meet from Richmond or San Pablo would first mention the local refinery. The pollution from the refinery causes poor air quality that causes health issues, including asthma. The freeways in our community also give off toxic emissions. I want to work toward zero emissions in our community. However difficult, that’s the dream that I have for our future. What takeaways would you give to other young people about environmental work? Being an environmentalist is a lot of work, but there are a lot of positives to it. I get to engage with people and gain new connections and experiences. There are so many opportunities for young people to get involved. If you’re an engaged young person, there’s no doubt that an experienced adult is going to step up to support you and your work. I am so grateful for the connections that I’ve made over the years. What other actions can young people take to make an impact in the fight against climate change? You can do a lot of things, like join a nonprofit, committee, or organization. In Richmond, there are a lot of nonprofit organizations with an emphasis on environmental activism. If that feels like too much, start by educating yourself. Learn how to recycle. Learn new perspectives and environmental ideologies. If you have social media, repost informative posts. Do you have any environmental role models? It’s not a particular person who inspires me, it’s what inspires me. I want to solve these environmental issues not only for myself but also for my community. I’m motivated by achieving a better future for the next generation in Richmond. My role models are the Richmond youth and residents because they inspire me to learn about environmentalism and to work harder every day. I would also like to mention that I attribute all my success to the admin, teachers, and staff at Pinole Valley High School – especially Mr. Kibby Kleiman, Mr. William Heyward, Mr. Ryan Kolb, Ms. Julia Brady, Mr. Armando Botello, Mr. Andrew Wolverton, Ms. Sarah Shokrai, Mr. Johnny Hein, and Mr. Matt Holmes. They believed in me when no one else did.

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