Water Justice Lab – Year One

Shansanique Pollack, Genesis Cooper, and Gabby Espada pose in front of a colorful mural. The mural depicts two hands, one blue and one orange, clasping in front of the sun, surrounded by plants and animals.
2020 Water Justice Fellows (L to R): Shansanique Pollack, Genesis Cooper, and Gabby Espada.

The first year of Water Justice Lab culminated with Water Justice Confluence, a virtual gathering of advocates from Hudson River Watershed communities to strengthen a network of environmental justice advocates including youth, focused on water issues:

  • Dec. 12, 2020 // 1-3pm 
    Water Justice Confluence Day 2: presentations from environmental mentor Sachem HawkStorm, hereditary sachem (chief) of the Schaghticoke People, and youth water justice actions along the Hudson with Water Justice Lab (Troy, NY), Kingston YMCA Farm Project (Kingston, NY) and Groundwork Hudson Valley (Yonkers, NY), followed by break-out groups and a facilitated open dialogue with participating youth advocates to inspire future actions.

Note: In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Media Sanctuary staff and youth did not engage directly in water sample processing, except through training and audio storytelling.

June 2020: NATURE Lab, Youth Sanctuary and Riverkeeper announce the launch of the “Water Justice Lab.” The three-year project based at Media Sanctuary in North Troy will establish a water quality sampling lab and train students in both laboratory science and media arts skills in order to focus on environmental justice issues in the Hudson River Watershed.

Three Youth Scientist Fellows from Lansingburgh High School, Genesis Cooper, Gabby Espada and Shansanique Pollack, will work with Water Justice Lab Scientist Mentor Jared Wesley Singer to learn laboratory and media skills, with guidance from Media Sanctuary and Riverkeeper staff.


Genesis Cooper stands beside a chicken in the Sanctuary's urban garden.

Genesis Cooper, a student at Lansingburgh High School, is in advanced math and science programs, and has been a high honors student since elementary school. Genesis is in various school clubs, and works to help other organizations in her community. Working in WJL, Genesis hopes to help her community understand more things about their own home that they don’t really know about, like local economics, environmental racism, and local politics.

Genesis Cooper, whose face is painted like Spider-Man's mask, applies face paint to a dark-skinned boy.

Genesis Cooper’s main focus is to help and educate those around her by volunteering her time. She helps run the Justice4Dahmeek organization that was started by her father, Massiah Cooper. They go around the city and hold events to educate the community on police brutality and inequality in America. Genesis has also volunteered her time at The Sanctuary for Independent Media, and has been an Uptown Summer leader for the summers of 2019 and 2020. In 2019, she ran the face painting table at the Spirit of the Suffragettes concert series and community resource fair at Freedom Square. She is thinking about attending Howard University and possibly becoming a teacher. Genesis has interests in many subjects including science and hope to educate the youth on many different topics about the world around them.

Gabby Espada stands in front of the Sanctuary's urban garden. She has her hand on her chin in a thoughtful pose and a confident smile on her face.

Gabby Espada is a ninth grader at Lansingburgh High School. She is in advanced science and top of her math class as well. Gabby enjoys hands-on activities in science, and she’s a very social and outgoing person. She strives for the best and is an extremely determined teen. Gabby likes having her voice heard and making a change. She does as much as possible in school such as: drama club, soccer, volleyball, track and field, basketball, student council, and tutoring. Gabby is a determined teen ready to take on anything that comes her way.

Gabby Espada has been involved in many movements including: Justice for Dahmeek, suicide prevention movements, and Dance for Donations, She’s also worked with kids and animals. Gabby attends the STEP program at R.P.I. and takes architecture and coding there. In Dance for Donations she danced and taught others dances for donations for leukemia. She has experience working with people of all ages.

Shansanique Pollack stands beside a sunflower, making a "V" sign with her hand.

Shansanique Pollack is currently attending Lansingburgh High School and just graduated 9th grade year with high honors. She is also involved in her school’s advanced programs including advanced science, advanced math, and both Pre AP history and ELA.  As a WJL Fellow, Shansanique is excited to deal with science that could also help the community learn more about what’s around them and help educate the community on what it can do to improve.

Throughout her life, Shansanique has always tried to improve the lives around me in any way possible and to help spread useful information. When she’s older Shansanique wants to be able to use her career to help people in any way possible. She’s hoping to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology for college and go into computer science, hopefully using computers in new and exciting ways to change communities and people for the better.

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We use art and participatory action to promote social and environmental justice and freedom of creative expression.

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