Our Students’ Wonder for the Environment Gets Them an Invite to Party with Stevie Wonder

ECMS student recognized as a Youth Environmental Champion at Global Green event.

The annual Pre-Oscar Party hosted by Global Green USA, Green Cross' American organization, was held on Wednesday, February 24th. Global Green rolled out the green carpet for eco-conscious stars and allies at its 13th annual pre-Oscar party at the Mr. C Beverly Hills Hotel.

The night featured an opening act by Charlie Puth, a special headlining performance by Stevie Wonder and a dinner programme emceed by renowned journalist Soledad O’Brien. The event recognized the World Bank’s Connect4Climate initiative, as well as the UN Foundation and Global Green Champions including elementary and middle school student gardeners who will help launch a global educational curriculum through a partnership with the MUSE School.

One of these Global Green Champions was ECMS-Inglewood's very own Nereida Chavez, Nereida part of a "growing community of global change-makers committed to protecting our planet by sharing the stories that matter.". Check out Planet Experts' story on her below:

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by Pierce Nahigyan

February 25, 2016

Last night, Planet Experts attended the 13th Annual Global Green Pre-Oscar Party, a swanky affair held at the Mr. C Beverly Hills Hotel. The title may be a mouthful, but it’s also the most high-profile environmental event of Oscar Week – and in a town that loves its stars as much as it loves progressive plastic bans, clean coastlines and renewable energy, that’s saying something. The heat of the 90º day was still sizzling off the pavement when the festivities started in earnest. The sun had gone down but the standing lights were bright and the Hollywood elite sparkled under the flash of dozens of cameras (meanwhile, iPhones belonging to the multitude of social media staff behind them took their own silent photos). Yes, it had all the glitz and glamour of a Hollywood premiere, but the night’s main feature was not an explosion-packed action adventure or a cool and meditative tragedy, but the very planet itself. Mother Earth was the belle of the ball, and Hollywood came out in force to support her.

The event was established over a decade ago by Global Green USA, the U.S. arm of Green Cross International. This year, however, new CEO Les McCabe wanted to shake things up.

“For many years, it was seen as, for lack of a better term, a Hollywood party,” McCabe told Planet Experts last week. “They would come, there’s a concert, we would have dinner and go home.” This year, he said, would be different. It would be a celebration, a way to show LA and the world that unity in the face of climate change can accomplish what no single organization, business or government can do alone.

Much of the media attention surrounding the event focused on legendary musician Stevie Wonder, who played a private concert for attendees later in the evening. The attention was certainly merited, as the singer’s dedication to green goals – and his singularly winning personality – is inspiring. Yet there were four very special guests of honor that night who embody the values that McCabe considers integral to the Global Green mission: The Global Green Champions, four students who are environmental stewards and advocates in their daily lives. GlobalGreenRedCarpetStudents

The Global Green Champions. From left to right: Emma Leyson, Nereida Chavez, Olivia Gorcey and Jazzmyn Stallworth. (Photo Credit: Beth Bernstein-Yamashiro)

LA’s Global Green Champions

Nearly lost in a crowd of high-heeled starlets, four diminutive girls wandered cautiously onto the Green Carpet. Neither moguls nor musicians, the girls – all students at LA elementary and middle schools – were selected for their shared enthusiasm in that most extraordinary of ordinary activities: Gardening.

Emma Leyson, a fourth grader from the MUSE School, would be honored that night with the Global Green/MUSE ECO leader award for completing MUSE’s Seed-to-Table program, which teaches students how to grow and manage gardens, cook and prepare food, and offers first-hand agricultural experiences that demonstrate the connection between humans and nature. The program, a collaboration between MUSE and Global Green, was established to highlight the importance of reduction, conservation and the repurposing of food, to the next generation. Leyson’s fellow honorees, hailing from the Environmental Charter Middle School-Inglewood and Tom Bradley Global Awareness Magnet School, were also recognized for their passion towards working in the soil. When Nereida Chavez of Environmental Charter Middle School received her award, she was introduced by Soledad O'Brien.

Jazzmyn Stallworth, at eight-years-old, was the youngest and shyest of the group. A third-grader at Tom Bradley, Jazzmyn informed me that she wasn’t exactly sure why she was at the Mr. C Beverly Hills Hotel, but that she did think more people should garden. Especially old people like myself who have never done so before.

“Gardening is good for taking care of the Earth,” she said. “God made us this Earth and I believe that he wants us to take care of it.” Her favorite food to eat from the garden is lettuce. Her second favorite is broccoli, but only when dipped in sweet and sour sauce.

At Environmental Charter Middle School, Nereida has been designated a Green Ambassador and dubbed “Dr. Doolittle” by her peers. The 11-year-old Nereida has never seen Dr. Doolittle (neither the 1998 remake nor the 1967 original starring Rex Harrison), but she does have a way with small, furry creatures.

“They call me that because animals really like me,” she said, “and I know how to take care of them.”

When I asked Nereida why it’s important to take care of animals, she answered with the patient indulgence of a professional zoologist. “It’s part of nature,” she said. “Nature’s beautiful, you know?”

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The author speaking with Miss Chavez in the lobby of Mr. C. (Photo: B. Bernstein-Yamashiro)

According to Nereida’s principal, Beth Bernstein-Yamashiro, Nereida is always the last student to put down her tools when it’s time to stop working in the garden. “You can’t get the shovel out of this girl’s hands,” said Ms. Bernstein-Yamashiro. “When she’s in her class where they’re gardening and it’s time to go, she’s just shoveling.”

Nereida has her own mini-shovel, which she has named “Steve.”

At Environmental Charter, students participate in two gardening classes per week. I explained to Nereida that I (geriatric twenty-something that I am) had never gardened even once in my life, and asked what she’d say to older people who are too set in their ways to protect animals or pick up a shovel.

“It matters because if [animals] weren’t on this planet, we would have never been able to survive,” she said. “All the kinds of animals that are on this world help human life, and a lot of other animals. I would tell them, even if they’re old, they can also make a change. They can help their friends and family to start gardening, and send letters to companies to stop polluting.”

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Nereida at the Global Green Oscar Party. (Photo: B. Bernstein-Yamashiro)

Nereida says her father, Carlos, is the inspiration for her green thumb. “When he was small, he used to live on a ranch and they used to plant vegetables and take care of the animals,” she said. “That inspired me to start liking plants and animals.” Nereida’s favorite thing to eat from the garden is kale, which I firmly believe is gross and not good to eat at all. Of the two of us, however, she was the one sharing the stage with Stevie Wonder.