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T.e.j.a.s, is excited to celebrate our long term partner, Furr High School of the Houston Independent School District.  In partnership for the past few years, through citizen science, we have been able to uplift the environmental justice work in the City of Houston. By rethinking traditional high school, and transforming learning beyond the four walls of the classroom making Furr High School, the “First Environmental Justice School in the Nation.”

The Green Institute at Furr High School is dedicated to inspiring students to take personal responsibility for improving the environment, our school, homes, and community. Furr High School and surrounding communities are plagued with high rates of diabetes, obesity and other health associated illnesses due to poor diets. In addition, a prime example of a fenceline community, as a number of petrochemical complexes and refineries are in the area, causing  poor air quality and leading to a number of health related issues.

As being original design partners with Furr High School, for the XQ Super School Project, we are excited of the growth and transformation. Together, we have been able to host and design professional development with educators through integration of design workshops, and field based learning programming in the city of Houston. We also worked together, as a taught partner to develop Furr High School’s, “Mission, vision and beliefs,” and Portrait of Graduate Profile, aligned with XQ design principles.

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For the past five years, Furr High School, “Green Ambassadors” have successfully piloted, advocated, and led a number of urban agroforestry greenification projects in the city of Houston, Texas. Together, with the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF), an award-winning international nonprofit charity, and with support from the USDA Forest Service and other partners, Green Ambassadors are committed to planting fruit trees and food-related understory plants to alleviate hunger, combat climate change, strengthen communities, and improve the surrounding air, soil, and water. Furr High School is linking schools through the creation of a corridor of edible fruit trees, and designing sustainable landscapes in which residents and wildlife may coexist and thrive. With over two hundred fruit trees planted, at 15-18 feet apart, translates to over 1,500+ feet of urban green space in which Green Ambassadors are stewards.  In addition, in 2016 they established a Community Garden at Herman Brown Park, that is across the street from the campus in which their Future Farmers of America students maintain throughout the seasons

Thus far, together we have been able to engage over hundreds of students with “Social Justice” and “Toxic Tours,” which allow students and educators through eyewitness accounts, to document the issues the city is facing and seek out solutions. Together, with Texas A&M and Furr High School we empower the students and community.  Graduate students from the Texas A&M College of Architecture’s urban planning and landscape architecture programs and the School of Public Health have partnered, connecting together to improve the environmental conditions in east Houston. They have been able to include students and educators in project based researched programming. Collecting data on the field through house visits, interviews, global information systems, citizen science and mentorship. Students have been able to actively engage in their own community, researching environmental issues and speaking at public hearings.

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Together, we have been able to create a path of internships

at T.e.j.a.s  for Furr High School, codesigned with the school’s vocational programming in multimedia and documentary storytelling. The first of its kind in the city of Houston. Our communities are facing gentrification, the cultures, histories and voices of our neighbourhoods are disappearing. It has been reported by Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Houston is undergoing gentrification faster than any other major Texas metropolitan area. Together, with Furr High School, students venture out and produce multimedia products, preserving the voices of our marginalized communities through photography, video profiles, art, blogging, social media, print products and showcase events. Empowering youth, to be the next generation of storytellers, leaders and historians.

Recently, the Houston Chronicle featured Furr High School for the environmental justice programming on the campus. Through our national and international work, we have never witnessed such a school as Furr High School. They are truly, the only school in the nation focusing on engaging their students with the consciousness of social justice and environmental issues, through solutions and community building.

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