Glendale’s Junior Ambassador Program Promotes Environmental Stewardship

For 12 years, the City of Glendale’s Neighborhood Services Department has operated successful environmental education programs in the city’s elementary schools. Continuing this education at the middle school level was the next obvious step to maintaining environmentally sustainable behavior in Glendale youth. Neighborhood Services needed to develop a program that would motivate junior high school students to take civic responsibility for their environment.

The goal was to teach students leadership skills so they could implement their own environmental awareness program consisting of education and practical applications in four major areas: community outreach, stormwater pollution prevention, litter prevention and paper/can/bottle recycling. However, there was no funding available to implement such a program.

Thinking Outside the Box

With a start-up budget of $0, Neighborhood Services staff outlined the basic steps needed to achieve program goals and invited Glendale’s Department of Integrated Waste Management and Generation Earth, a nonprofit recycling program sponsored by Los Angeles County, to participate in planning meetings. Both provided valuable contributions and offered their support and partnership. Each party had a vested interest in launching this program and making a smooth transition from concept to reality.

The next step in implementation was to partner with a local junior high school as a pilot school to run the program. A community volunteer recommended Wilson Middle School, and Neighborhood Services staff contacted the principal to pre-sent the program. The principal approved the plan and recommended three faculty members to facilitate the project: the service club moderator, a 7th grade science teacher and the recycling coordinator. A month-to-month plan was developed, and meetings were held with the faculty members to fine-tune the program for the junior high school level. They provided input on the educational plan and incentives to keep students motivated.

Integrated Waste Management was in charge of providing recycling containers and hauling service. Generation Earth helped the school implement an aggressive recycling program on campus. The Neighborhood Services Department was responsible for the litter prevention and stormwater pollution components, and coordinated with everyone to ensure seamless implementation. Once these elements were established, the Junior Ambassador Program was ready for its official launch.

In September 2003, the program was presented to students during an assembly. During the rest of the month, “Club Rush Week” presentations were made to all the 7th grade science classes. In Oc-tober 2003, the first Junior Ambassador meeting was held and meetings continued weekly throughout the school year. The project was up and running.

Small Steps Produce Big Results

The Junior Ambassador Program worked to instill environmentally friendly behavior in Glendale’s middle school students and teach them to educate their peers about civic responsibility. Students worked in conjunction with Generation Earth to assess environmental issues on their campus and in their community. After assessment, they developed and implemented an action plan addressing the issues. The program achieved the following results for the 2003–04 school year:

  • Junior Ambassadors participated in the Neighborhood Services’ Adopt-a-Block program. Students first learned about litter prevention and its effects on stormwater pollution. Next, they conducted a public outreach campaign and spoke with residents in their school neighborhood about litter prevention. Finally, they conducted weekly litter pick-ups in the neighborhood throughout the school year.
  • The Junior Ambassadors at Wilson Middle School implemented an aggressive recycling program and participated in the “Battle of the Schools,” a countywide recycling competition sponsored by Generation Earth. Middle schools and high schools from Los Angeles County competed to divert the highest amounts of recyclables from local landfills. Glendale’s participants won first place with an average of 14 pounds of diverted materials per student, and the Junior Ambassadors recycled 18,000 pounds of material during the school year. The next closest competitor averaged 4 pounds per student. Wilson Middle School students were rewarded with an on-campus lunchtime music concert hosted by a popular local radio station, 102.7 KIIS FM.
  • During 2003–04, Junior Ambassadors participated in an educational tour of the Scholl Canyon Landfill led by a senior environmental engineer from Glendale’s Public Works Department. Students learned about recycling and energy generated by the landfill.
  • Ambassadors held a one-day textbook recycling drive, for which the city’s Integrated Waste Department donated the hauling service, and identified a local recycler that paid for books by the pound.
  • In a celebration at the end of the school year, all the Junior Ambassadors were recognized for their outstanding work to improve the quality of life in Glendale and their commitment to environmental stewardship.
  • Junior Ambassadors starred in an informative television segment about their program, which aired in July 2005. Produced by Neighborhood Services, the segment was designed to educate viewers about litter prevention, stormwater pollution and recycling. It also encouraged other area middle schools to participate in the program.

The Best News of All

The Junior Ambassador Pilot Program was implemented with no money. The program operated on funds generated by recycling revenues, which totaled $640 by the end of the school year. At that time, the Junior Ambassador program was awarded a $2,500 grant from Glendale Water & Power to continue the program at Wilson Middle School, as well as expand it to at least one more school and incorporate an energy efficiency component in 2004–05.

Contact: Sandra Rodriguez, public education specialist, City of Glendale Neighborhood Services; phone: (818) 548-2877; e-mail:

This article appears in the August 2006 issue of Western City
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