OPAL is pleased to announce the hire of our new Youth Organizer, Adrian Cato. Adrian will organize the Youth Environmental Justice Alliance and its Serve the People summer training program, continuing the movement for Youth Justice our youth members lead. Adrian was born and raised in Central Florida and is a queer-identifying woman of Black and Cuban descent. Adrian plays the soprano ukulele in her free time, “albeit not very well,” she jokes. Adrian previously spent time in North Carolina and is a new resident of the Pacific Northwest. She believes that her intersecting identities have led to a desire to work toward an inclusive, equitable, sustainable future for all.
Adrian has a background in environmental science & policy. “During much of my education, I felt that there were many holes in what I was taught about environmentalism,” Adrian says. “The environment and people are viewed as separate entities, and there is not an emphasis on addressing social justice and civil rights as a part of the environmental movement.” It was not until she became part of a cohort working on environmental justice and urban restoration ecology issues in Dallas, Texas that she became educated on the Environmental Justice movement. During this time, “I learned the importance of community-of-color-led action,” Adrian says, to create long-term change for the people most affected by environmental degradation and unequal access to transportation, housing, safe and healthy foods, and green space. Adrian also worked for her on campus sustainability office, working to educate her peers on how their individual action and impact affects the natural environment and vulnerable populations.
“I want all my future work and actions to emphasize the importance of addressing the environmental and social impacts that are incurred upon underrepresented and vulnerable communities,” Adrian says. “This includes black and brown peoples, immigrant populations, native and indigenous people, and LGBTQ+ folks.” She hopes to continue to be a part of an environmental justice movement that amplifies the voices of these populations.
Adrian is excited to be a part of OPAL, believing that this organization is in line with her values. “People are very much a part of their environments, and that environment includes where we live, go to school, work, and find community,” she says. She strongly believes in the power of youth in creating change, and hopes to build on the work of outgoing Youth Organizer Jennifer Phung, and the past and present members of YEJA, as advocates and activists creating change led by Portland youth of color.
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