Family Life Academy Charter Schools I teams up with Mexican artist, grassroots organizations for Earth Day event

Durán speaks to the children about his curated artwork piece to Family Life Academy Charter Schools I students.
Photo Steven Goodstein

Given the fact that Family Life Academy Charter Schools I students will be off this for spring break, the Mount Eden school and other local organizations teamed up to provide students with more knowledge and awareness pertaining to the upcoming annual occasion of Earth Day.

On Thursday, April 18, Family Life Academy Charter Schools I, in collaboration with the Latino Pastoral Action Center (LPAC), South Bronx Unite and the Peace Department, got a head start on Earth Day celebrations with an event that also featured renowned artist Alejandro Durán.

The school’s second annual Earth Day event, which took place at the Family Life Academy Charter Schools I location of 14 W. 170th St., in the Mount Eden neighborhood of the Bronx, aimed to generate awareness and spread knowledge about Earth Day, which takes place annually on April 22 and is held to promote consciousness and protection of the environment against global warming and other harmful factors, in order to make a more habitable environment in the future.

The event included workshops for students to get more of a hands on approach pertaining to environmental issues and sustainability.

Workshops for the Earth Day event included a gardening activity led by the Peace Department, as well as a South Bronx-Unite-led slideshow on contributing, yet essential factors that play a part in poor air quality, including power plants, construction, trucks, buses, cars, major highways, building emissions and lack of green spaces.

The event also showcased an interactive visual which was curated by Durán, using items of trash within his artwork. According to Durán, it took him more than a decade and trips to more than 60 countries to complete this one piece of artwork.

The artwork, which also features real plastic trash that spills out of the photograph, is living proof that the phase, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” still has valuable meaning.

“I just saw all this trash, and I wanted to make something beautiful out of it,” said Durán, who is of Mexican descent. “I was saddened by the situation, but I thought to myself, how can I use this trash to tell a story and raise awareness and to show people that we need to take better care of our planet.”

Durán added that he was inspired to curate this particular piece of artwork when he visited a biosphere reserve in Mexico and saw plastic trash spread out all across the beach, before taking part in various beach cleanups and collecting garbage from across the world.

“When we’re all gone, these kids will still be here and we want to provide them with the best possible knowledge, so that they have the tools to make this world a better place environmentally and overall,” Durán added.

Durán also said that he began by organizing the trash by color  before making the installations and later photographing the items.

A gardening workshop was also set up for Family Life Academy Charter Schools I students. Photo Steven Goodstein

“Earth Day is on the [April 22], but in reality, Earth Day is everyday,” said Natalia Alvarez, executive assistant for the Peace Department, a nonprofit organization based in Tribeca. “It’s important that we acknowledge Earth Day annually, but it’s more important that we maintain good environmental efforts all the time.”

Leslie Vasquez, clean air project organizer for South Bronx Unite, also led a slideshow presentation on how to measure for poor air quality and why awareness regarding this issue is so important.

“The environmental factors in this borough, which lead to coughing, wheezing and asthma attacks — a lot of that has to do with poor air quality,” Vasquez said. “It’s important to have this awareness, so that we can combat this issue as a whole.”

Vasquez leads a slideshow on contributing, yet essential factors that play a part in poor air quality, including power plants, construction, trucks, buses, cars, major highways, building emissions and lack of green spaces. Photo Steven Goodstein

According to Vasquez, the school is now equipped with a monitor on the roof, which tests air quality routinely and runs on solar energy and is one of 28 solar monitors in community based Bronx locations. The solar monitors collect data pertaining to nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, temperature, wind speed and other air quality statistics.

“We want to make these more conscious about Earth Day and the meaning behind it,” said Esteban Rivera, executive director of the Latino Pastoral Action Center. “Many of these students have heard of Earth Day, but might not know the steps we can take to make the world a cleaner and healthier place. That’s why we are hosting this event for the second year in a row — to spread that awareness.”

Rivera added that it is important for people to know the contributing factors that play a part in poor air quality, particularly people in the Bronx, where asthma rates are high and have long affected Bronxites, and particularly Bronx youth, in previous years.

The Latino Pastoral Action Center (LPAC) has also had a partnership and sponsorship with Family Life Academy Charter Schools for the past year, according to Rivera.

“We want these efforts to continue in the classroom, as well as in the community,” Rivera added.

Durán poses in front of his artwork at the Family Life Academy Charter Schools I Earth Day event on Thursday, April 18, 2024. Photo Steven Goodstein

Family Life Academy Charter Schools (FLACS), which includes four other schools throughout NYC, is a K-12 network of community-grown free public charter schools located in the Bronx and collectively serves more than 1,800 scholars annually.

FLACS creates an overall environment of self-empowerment for all its students to excel academically, take responsibility for their own learning and affirm human values in the present, in college, and beyond.

Reach Steven Goodstein at or (718) 260–8326. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes