Montclair, NJ -. The Northeast Earth Coalition (NEEC) has created three Environmental Justice internships, giving three young people from Montclair an opportunity to learn about environmental issues and how they can become community leaders. Two of these internships will be in partnership with two Montclair United Church of Christ congregations, First Congregational Church (FCC) and Union Congregational Church. Simona Marie Graceffo, Jey Cook and Robeson Amory have been selected to represent the two congregations, and the fourth intern, Jala Best, will be directly sponsored by the NEEC.
The two participating churches share with the NEEC a deep commitment to caring for God’s creation and seeking justice for all of God’s people. Together they are offering this opportunity for Graceffo and Cook to learn about and work towards creation justice this summer.
Rev. John Rogers, Lead Pastor for Spiritual Formation and Community Development at FCC, is excited about the project, stating “Three young people from our congregations will share their talents and passions for climate justice with the community and have the opportunity to learn from local environmental leaders and community activists about the work towards sustainability happening in and around Montclair.” Rev. Katrina Forman, pastor at Union Congregation Church, added “These internships will strengthen the wider commitments of the churches to continue to live into the call to be stewards of creation, which is core to our Christian identities.”
The fourth internship, under the direction of the NEEC, is named the Dr. Renee Baskerville Environmental Justice Internship in honor of the community activism of Dr. Baskerville in Montclair. This internship will be part of the NEEC’s Environmental Initiatives and Outreach Programs, and Jala Best, the intern, will be responsible for implementing a project within her community. Objectives include connecting with community leaders and environmental justice activists to learn from them and get mentoring support for the project.
According to Jose German Gomez, founder of the NEEC, “All four of these internships target youth interested in environmental issues, climate change and social justice. The programs’ goal is to develop leadership to promote an environmental justice movement that recognizes the root causes of the climate and environmental crises.”
The interns will participate in discussions of environmental issues such as climate change, clean water and water conservation, clean air, renewable energy, and local food production, and how they affect people in less privileged communities. They will visit places affected by economic and environmental inequities and see how these issues affect the quality of life of people living in polluted environments.