Environmental Health and Justice

"Loved loved this program and words alone cannot express how much I learned. It was truly a life changing experience."
-JBS Environmental Health and Justice fall 2011

Click here to learn what other students have to say!

At a Glance

Program Overview

In this hands-on, multi-disciplinary, community-engaged learning program, students become deeply immersed in the law, policy, social impacts and science of current environmental health issues challenging individuals, families and communities today.

We work directly with low-income, diverse populations most affected by environmental challenges - toxic exposures in food, soils, air and water; decisions about location of hazardous waste facilities; access to environmentally safe and affordable housing and others.

Along with strong grounding in the academic material, we spend much of the time in the field and in the community, acquiring real skills for real needs to engage in these issues first-hand: legal training, negotiation, advocacy, interviewing and counseling, environmental field monitoring and assessment, study design, sampling methodology and analysis, oral presentation and more.

Throughout the JBS program, students collaborate directly with grassroots community organizations, government agencies and individuals to tackle environmental health problems facing low-income residents, from inner-city Boston and Waltham to the coal mining country of Appalachia.  We do most things together as a group, from our initial stay on Cape Cod to our week-long trip to the mountains of Harlan, Kentucky, and throughout with numerous fieldwork trips, data-gathering visits, workshops with community partners, health study presentations, and even hikes to the tops of mountains.   

This video was created by JBS participants Liza Ansher, Jenny Cheng, and Vivian Zeng.

Other Samples of what Students did in Fall 2011: 

  • Traveled to the mountain communities of rural Kentucky. Students worked with communities deeply affected by mountaintop removal for coal, witnessing the devastating ecological and human health impacts.  
  • Addressed high-risk housing issues and homelessness at the twice weekly Housing Advocacy Clinic at WATCH. All students in the JBS program became essential participants in this critical community service, gaining skills and training in housing law, client interviewing, legal research, advocacy, negotiation and counseling. Working in teams, students prevented evictions, improved sanitary conditions, found families and individuals affordable housing and much more. 
  • Hosted “Healthy Homes” and Housing Rights trainings and workshops with the low-income immigrant mothers of the Waltham Family School. Among other things, students shared with the mothers the health risks of typical cleaning chemicals and products, and with them produced non-toxic alternatives that can be made for pennies. 
  • Partnered with Healthy Waltham and Waltham Fields Community Farm to improve understanding and access to healthy local food by working with school children to develop and improve community gardens.

This program will likely be offered again in fall of 2013. Future programs will build on these initiatives and new projects will be developed to meet the real needs of the community.