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Xochilt Galilea Morales

Instagram Handle: @luvjuns
Age: 16

Xochilt Galilea Morales

Hello there! My name is Xochilt Morales, and I am from Pacoima, California, a small
neighborhood in the Northeast Valley of Los Angeles! I am currently in eleventh grade, sixteen
years old, and I go to Alliance Marine Joni and Jeff High School, located in the Sun Valley
To start off, let me tell you a little bit about myself and where I come from. I was born in
Sun Valley, California--about a fifteen-minute drive from the ending point of Pacoima and the
starting point of Sylmar, which is where I currently live, to a low-income, loving Guatemalan
family. Growing up in Pacoima, I never really paid attention to the environmental damages being
done to my community. Until I was four years old, I lived in a beautiful house that had its own
backyard, giant orange and lemon trees, and a garden grown by my mother and grandmother. My
mom likes to joke around with me and say that the reason why I hold so much love and
appreciation for the environment is because I used to spend hours eating grass, leaves, flowers,
and dirt in that garden.
At the age of three, I developed asthma. In the first stages of its development, my parents
were not too concerned about this disease, as it seemed not to have been affecting my health too
much. Unfortunately, around the time when I entered Pre-K, my asthma had gotten progressively
worse. I was having trouble breathing every single day, and on certain nights, I would have to
sleep with an oxygen mask. My parents were unaware of what had made me develop asthma, and
it was not until one year later, when we moved closer to Sylmar, that my asthma and my ability
to breathe improved! For a while, I went on with my life and had forgotten that I had asthma, and
I do not recall ever using an inhaler during the time that I was in Elementary school. Fast
forward to my first year in middle school: my school, which was now located in Sun Valley,

California, was right across the street from this gigantic building that I always thought was some
sort of ship when I was little.
What I did not realize was that from the moment I was first born to this current point in
time, I have been surrounded by pollution. As a resident of the city of Pacoima, I have seen how
drastically pollution has taken a toll on the health of those who live within my community,
including myself. At first glance, many of the residents of Pacoima tend to think that Pacoima is
just another poverty-stricken city trying its best to combat the homelessness problem being faced
all over Los Angeles County. Most of the people who are current residents of Pacoima are not
even aware of the harmful activities that are occurring in our very own backyard. Not only is my
community of Pacoima home to the notorious Whiteman Airport, which has been the cause of
several fatal plane crashes and has planes that emit lead, dangerous chemicals, and noise
pollution on a daily basis, but it is also home to a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power
power plant that decided to conceal information from the general public regarding a three-year
methane gas leak that occurred from 2017 to 2020. This power plant is what I was referring to as
a “gigantic building” earlier on in my story. In addition to this, there are eleven landfills within a
five-mile radius of my school and an active train station. It is not fair that affluent communities
get to enjoy clean air and green spaces while communities like mine are burdened with pollution
and its health effects. The disparity in environmental quality is a stark reminder of the
environmental racism and inequality that persist in our society. As I have grown older, I have
realized that even though I live within one of Los Angeles's biggest polluter cities, multiple
non-profit groups in my community have been striving to combat the pollution faced in Pacoima
long before I was born.
Because of this, growing up in a heavily polluted city has been a significant factor in

inspiring me to pursue a career in environmental science, and I am more than proud to say that I
have done everything in my power to involve myself in youth groups, like Pacoima Beautiful's
Youth United Towards Environmental Protection Club (Y.U.T.E.P.), and Agua University, and
other groups like Black Thumb Farms, TreePeople, and the Mono Lake Outdoor Education
Unfortunately, around two months ago, the four individuals who used to run the
environmental youth club that I used to be in left the organization Pacoima Beautiful, leaving
twenty-five nature-loving, dedicated, and passionate students without a place to continue their
advocacy for environmental justice. During the time that this club was still active, our youth
organizer taught us how to combat the climate change and environmental injustice issues being
faced in our community. We used to create protests where we would speak out against the issues
being faced in the city of Pacoima and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Despite this setback, I remain committed to my goal of pursuing a career in
environmental science and making a positive impact on my community. I am actively seeking
new opportunities to get involved and contribute to the efforts to improve the environmental
health of Pacoima and other underserved, low-income communities facing similar challenges. I
hope that Youth On Root will be another opportunity for me to connect with like-minded
individuals and continue my advocacy work, where all of us can make a difference and create a
more sustainable world for us and future generations.

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