Summer 2012 has reminded me what it means to focus on girls’ awareness of community. For our Operation SMART® outreach program, Knozone materials were graciously gifted to us by Hirons & Company, contracted by the Office of Sustainability of Indianapolis. The focus of the outreach program was to encourage girls to take a stand against polluted air. In order for them to get inspired to take charge of non-polluted air, we had to teach them about the causes and effects of air pollution.

This summer, along with the other Program Support Coordinators, I trekked around our beautiful city enhancing partner day camps and bringing to life Indianapolis’ vision for clean air. At each day camp there was a new comment or story from the girls that revealed to me that this was the generation we truly needed to reach for the future of our city. The girls were engaged and curious about air pollution, carpooling, and in particular, the fact that aerosol hairspray cans can negatively affect the air we breathe (typical girl reaction: say what!?).

Girls in our Operation SMART summer program pledged to reduce their air pollution
Girls in our Operation SMART summer program pledged to support clean air with one specific action. Above are pictures of girls riding the bus to reduce air pollution.

The day that I personally saw the change that we were starting came with one of my youngest participants. She was a sweet six year-old girl who was hesitant to fill out her Knozone Pledge, which challenged the girls to commit to do something that would make the air we breathe cleaner. Many of the girls chose to plant a garden, recycle, or pick up trash; this little girl asked me what it meant to carpool. I gave her the simplest definition I could and she began to draw a picture of herself on a bus. I asked her, “What are you drawing?” She replied, “That’s me on the bus, carpooling. It means it isn’t a bad thing to ride the bus.” For me, this was a turning point for our outreach programs. We were not only teaching the girls that being a part of a community means taking care of the air we breathe, we were also making our girls socially aware that there must be a mental shift in the way our city thinks about mass transit.

I am excited that this six year-old girl will continue to spread the word that carpooling by riding the bus is a positive way to impact our city’s health and sustainability.