This visitor to San Francisco from New York, pictured in 2011, was ahead of his time in donning a mask. Incidentally, a surgical mask like this one won't help with wildfire smoke.

Some of the students at the San Francisco International High School have only been in the country for a short time, but they are already tackling difficult topics that transcend borders. Each student has selected a “Change maker,” someone who, in their eyes, is solving the problems these students care about most. In this ongoing series, the students first write about themselves and why they selected their change maker. The profiles of their heroes will follow.

Environmental pollution has disastrous effects on the health of people who live in affected areas, lowering life expectancy to as little as 45 years in the world’s most affected areas. In less extreme cases, pollutants still contribute to chronic disorders affecting the thyroid, nervous system, and lungs. Existing ecosystems, wildlife, and natural resources are also damaged by pollution. These are some of the students at the International High School who are exploring this inherently global issue.

Jennifer Chavac


I am Jennifer. I am from Guatemala. I’ve lived in San Francisco for almost two years.  I am 16 years old. I think something unique about me is that I try to do new things and I challenge myself.

My group is studying about pollution and climate change. I think this is important for me because when I was in my country my teacher had a club called Environment Together. Before this club, you could see that our school was kind of  dirty and also the students didn’t like it because  there was garbage  everywhere and the bathroom was nasty. Because of Environment Together, older students started cleaning parts from our school and planting trees and cute flowers. That’s what  made me think that there were heroes for us and for me.

Donal De Paz

My name is Donal De Paz. I am from Guatemala and I am 17 years old.

This problem is important to me because before people did not pollute the world as much as they do now. People now have made lots of things like factories and the pollution is all over the world.

I am from a small town in Guatemala. In my country there is a lot of pollution because now people use a lot of plastic bags and bottles. They do not recycle very much so there is trash in the mountains and rivers. Before, this pollution was not there.

Akbor Sharif


My name is Akbor Sharif. I am from Bangladesh. I am 17 years old. I like to talk with Americans.

 Environment pollution is important to me because many people get sick, and they can even die, from environmental pollution.

Our country has a lot of factories in the city. So the factories make smoke and a lot of trash every day. They put the trash in the river and smoke goes into the air. That affects the environment—the water and air gets polluted. A lot of people use the river for water and they get sick. People also get the disease of asthma from the air.

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