Heights Graduation Celebration Honored 500+ Students 

Heights Philadelphia & U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Announce New Partnership Aiding Black, Brown and First-Generation Students’ Pathways to Environmental Studies & Careers

Heights students from Lankenau Environmental Science Magnet School visited the EPA’s Lower Darby Creek Area Superfund Site for Earth Day.

April 22, 2024 (Philadelphia) Heights Philadelphia (“Heights”) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) today – Earth Day – formally announced a new partnership to support Heights’ mission of creating student pathways to college and careers, especially for low-income, Black and Brown, and first-generation-to-college students. Furthering Heights’ vision that all students achieve economic mobility through education and career success, the EPA will now offer opportunities for students supported by Heights in college programming and 19 School District of Philadelphia high schools to learn and gain first-hand experience in the fields of environmental sciences and environmental justice through education, mentorship, and hands-on experiences.

To formally kick-start the partnership, the EPA invited Heights students from the Lankenau Environmental Science Magnet High School to its Lower Darby Creek Area Superfund Site, the Clearview Landfill, to participate in activities with volunteers to celebrate Earth Day. 40 students participated in a variety of environmental testing activities with trained environmental professionals. The students conducted a soil analysis for heavy materials, tested water and sediment from the creek bank, and participated in landfill gas vent testing. After the activities, Adam Ortiz, EPA Region 3 Regional Administrator, and Sean Vereen, Co-President of Heights Philadelphia, signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding document, formalizing the partnership between the organizations. 

Over the next five years, Heights and the EPA will work together on programming that introduces students to employment opportunities in the environmental professional field, as well as the federal government.  EPA activities will include: 

  • offering mentorship, shadowing, and workplace or site tours for students
  • environmental science field and laboratory training, and hands-on experiences for students
  • supporting networking and engagement opportunities for Heights’ students through job fairs and community outreach events
  • participating in lectures, webinars, and conferences hosted for Heights students

The partnership with the EPA comes after Heights’ recently launched their new strategic plan that aims to expand services from 3,000+ to 5,000+ students by 2029.  The five-year strategic plan focuses on building pathways to college and career, changing systems, and creating a sustainable organization model. 

“It is wonderful to see this interactive investment from the federal government into the future of our students,” said Sean E. Vereen, Ed.D., Co-President, Heights Philadelphia. “I look forward to working with the EPA on programming that will give our students opportunities to engage with their work and learn more about careers in the public-sector. These types of hands-on experiences are critical in furthering pathways to help our students achieve college and career success.” 

“Part of building a brighter future for our students means taking care of our planet and educating young people about the importance of environmental health,” said Sara L. Woods, Esq., C0-President, Heights Philadelphia. “This partnership will provide invaluable opportunities for our students to gain first-hand knowledge and experience in environmental science, environmental justice, and sustainability, so they can see the importance of this work and the career opportunities that are available to them.” 

“Formal partnerships like the one we are celebrating today are more crucial now than ever before,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Administrator Adam Ortiz. “EPA is proud to support the work that Heights Philadelphia is doing to inspire students and motivate them to pursue college and career journeys in the environmental field. This partnership will not only make a difference in the lives of the students and their families, but will further the mission of EPA by producing future leaders that will serve to protect human health and the environment.”

“We are grateful for this partnership between Heights Philadelphia and the EPA,” said Superintendent Tony B. Watlington, Sr., Ed.D. “It is our vision to prepare students to imagine and realize any future they desire. Through collaborations and partnerships like this one, students at 19 District High Schools will have exposure to potential careers in environmental sciences and gain valuable experiences like networking, mentorship and hands-on training.” 

About Heights Philadelphia:
Heights is rooted in the bold vision that “all Philadelphia students graduate high school and achieve economic mobility through college and workforce success.” Heights’ work reflects a deep and abiding commitment to break the cycle of generational poverty, which has long challenged the City of Philadelphia, connecting students – especially Black, Latino, and first-generation scholars – with a network of people who believe, and invest in, their talents. Beginning in middle school, students receive access to academic, workforce, and college support to propel economic mobility. Serving more than 3,000 students in Philadelphia, Heights works with students to provide not only programming including one-on-one advising, academic enrichment, internship opportunities, and financial support – but also pathways to success through every step of their lives. For more information, visit Heights.org. Follow Heights on social media including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn @HeightsPhilly  

About the EPA: 
EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. Through its role as a regulator, partner, and funder, the agency works to ensure clean air, land, and water. Spending nearly half its budget in grants to state environmental programs, non-profits, educational institutions, and more, EPA boosts environmental efforts across the board. Headquartered in Philadelphia, the Mid-Atlantic Region serves Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, and seven federally recognized tribes. For more information, visit www.epa.gov. Follow the Mid-Atlantic region on Twitter (EPARegion3) and Instagram (EPA_midatlantic) for updates, partner highlights, and announcements.