by Katherine Chouteau
RICHMOND, CA -- Richmond native and environmentalist Sharon Fuller was honored with The San Francisco Foundation's 2004 Daniel E. Koshland Civic Unity Award during a recent awards ceremony at the Richmond Convention Center. The Koshland Civic Unity Program recognizes Bay Area grassroots social innovators in a target community--this year's focus being Richmond's Iron Triangle--who work to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. Fuller was praised by The San Francisco Foundation for her "Outstanding efforts in the vibrant and diverse Iron Triangle neighborhood."
Fuller received this special commendation due to her ongoing youth advocacy in the Iron Triangle neighborhood as the founder and director of the Ma’at Youth Academy (MYA). MYA is a community-based environmental organization in Richmond dedicated to a safer, cleaner, healthier environment for youth, which ultimately seeks to build capacity in both low-income and ethnically diverse communities, to significantly reduce public exposure to environmental hazards. Currently under Fuller’s direction, local high school interns are conducting the Fish Consumption Study for Women and Children designed to investigate the health effects of consuming San Francisco Bay fish contaminated with elevated levels of methlymercury.
The recent awards ceremony launched a $300,000, five-year initiative in the Iron Triangle to enhance civic unity by promoting mutual respect and collaboration among diverse communities to address neighborhood concerns. As one of twelve 2004 Koshland awardees, Fuller received a personal award, as well as $5,000 to grant to the neighborhood non-profit organization of her choice. In years two through five of the initiative, Fuller will join her fellow award recipients in spearheading a community planning process that will determine the distribution of $60,000 per year. The money will be used to fund efforts that promote civic unity and improve the quality of life in the Iron Triangle neighborhood.
In response to the honor Fuller remarked, "As a lifelong Richmond resident, the environmental education and advocacy work I perform in the Iron Triangle is both a personal and professional passion. As such, I am truly honored to be a 2004 award recipient, and look forward to collaborating with fellow community activists and continuing my efforts towards further enriching this culturally bountiful neighborhood."
Established by Fuller in 1994, MYA helps empower communities by actively involving youth and residents in local investigations and community workshops, developing and disseminating culturally relevant educational material, and partnering with school districts, universities, governmental agencies, community-based organizations and residents. This nationally recognized Academy brings curricula that focus on urban ecology and environmental health to public schools in communities of color and low-income areas throughout Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. As part of its mission, MYA links urban high school students to hands-on environmental education and community action.
Fuller holds a B.S. degree in Conservation and Resource Studies from the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley and a M.S. degree in Environmental Education from CSU Hayward. She is a Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials Commissioner and a member of the Point Molate Restoration Advisory Board. In addition to receiving the 2004 Koshland Civic Unity Award, Fuller is also a 2004 recipient of California's 14th Assembly District's "Woman of the Year" award.
As with her last award, Fuller is dedicating it to the memory of her mother Dolores S. Jackson, a retiree from the West Contra Costa Unified School District, who devoted her life to ensuring all children have access to quality education.