Port Arthur students using disaster management knowledge to form career paths

Published 12:22 am Thursday, March 21, 2024

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A group of Tekoa High School students got a peek into the importance of emergency management, its ties to climate change and the related career paths.

Tekoa’s Alexander Gonzalez, who has 13 college credit hours and is part of the NextGen Guardians of the Gulf Coast program, told fellow students in attendance Wednesday at Port Arthur City Hall about the importance of bridging between emergency management and climate change at a young age.

“This is a path for careers. This is a path for development,” Gonzalez said. “This is the path for where we can make an impact in our world for a positive end. This is about where we can help our communities, the communities that have helped us grow. We can help them by fighting causes of emergencies by trying to avoid emergencies that are caused by climate change.”

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Gonzalez said they, the youth, are the ones who need to take charge, “take the lantern, take the torch and lead our community in emergency management and climate change.”

Jaimie Masterson, director of engagement for the Hazard Reduction Recovery Center at Texas A&M University, noted the frequency and intensity of disasters are increasing and are projected to increase in the future.

Growing up in Southeast Houston, she experienced flooding and knows the students and their parents locally have, as well.

The Hazard Reduction Recovery Center is committed to developing strong scholars and champions in disaster research and using science to lead the nation in the Gulf of Mexico and communicating the science and reaching new learners.

Guardians of the Gulf Coast

The next generation of guardians is a multi-year funded project of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicines.

The Texas A&M University team is hosting Camp D.A.S.H., which stands for disaster, advocacy, sustainability and health.

The five-day free camp is held July 8- 2 on the college campus, though seating is limited.

Career paths

Dr. Benika Dixon, assistant professor and an epidemiologist, told the students healthcare is a bridge to emergency management.

“Public health intervention plays a pivotal role in preventing the spread of disease and minimizing health risks that occur from climate change and disasters,” Dixon said.

“So when we think about whether it’s a hurricane or earthquake, or even a pandemic and what we’ve gone through with COVID, we often see lack of access to resources, such as clean water issues around sanitation. This often leads to surges or increases in disease. So that’s what we do as epidemiologists.”

Charles X. White, CEO of Charity Productions, said this is a three-year program and at the end of the third year they are trying to target at least 200 plus students who have been through the program, which includes the curriculum and summer camp and is open to schools across Southeast Texas.

“This project enlarges and diversifies the field of disaster management through developing youth leaders knowledgeable in climate change and it’s effect on our community disaster resilience. We want to improve educational pathways that lead students from high school to college and, eventually, into the variety of careers that address climate resilience.”

Charity Productions was awarded a grant and is providing coursework from the National Incident Management System related to disaster management.