Princeton University rising junior Chioma Ugwonali, 19, returned to Fort Worth this summer to teach workshops on environmental justice.

Ugwonali grew up in Arlington, but spent a lot of time at her grandparents’ home in the Stop Six neighborhood. Her grandmother, Maria Shelton, 74, said she didn’t think much about where her trash went until her granddaughter taught her better.

“Chioma came home and she said, ‘What is this plastic doing in here?’ You don’t have recycling?’” Shelton said. “After that, she came and she looked at the detergent and she said, ‘You know this is one of the harshest detergents you can use? Do you know what happens to it after your washes?’”

Ugwonali traveled to the Dominican Republic and Spain to study environmental science. She brought that knowledge to her grandmother and the youth of Stop Six on July 28 and 29.

In her workshops, Ugwonali talked about pollution, industrialization near communities of color and how chemicals in the environment affect quality of life.

“You have nieces and nephews, and they’ve got to live in a world that if it keeps decelerating like it is, it’s not going to be something that most people will enjoy,” Shelton said.

Shelton participated in civil rights marches in the 1960s, she said. 

Environmental justice is part of today’s fight, she added.

“It’s important to have young people involved because change is going to involve young people. People who have the energy,” Shelton said.

At 74, Shelton said it’s up to the younger generation to make the changes and fight the fight she fought decades ago.

“You guys are the ones who are going to make things different, if they can be different.”

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Cristian ArguetaSoto

Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. He can be reached at cristian.arguetasoto@fortworthreport.org or (817) 317-6991.