A photo of Sadia Khan standing on a wall at SBVCName: Sadia Khan
Location: San Bernardino, California
Contribution: My Generation campaign student activist

What is My Generation, and how did you get involved? It's a youth-led campaign that pushes for cleaner air in the Inland Empire [the sprawling network of cities and suburbs east of Los Angeles]. The campaign is mostly made up of teenagers—high school and college students. I got involved my freshman year of college. I went to a meeting about the effects of air pollution in our area, and that's when a lot of things clicked in my head.

Have you personally been affected by the pollution? We moved here from Northern California when I was 13. Within four years, I had asthma and my sister had developed seasonal allergies. Her neck can swell up so badly that she stops breathing if she doesn't take her medication. When I was 18, my father passed away from respiratory problems. It was a month before his 50th birthday.

How do you cope with such a tragedy? Pollution-related health problems are common here. In Southern California, nearly 15 people die every day because of respiratory issues. We're sick of watching our family members die. My Generation helped me realize that if I don't stand up, if I don't start lobbying, this is going to continue. 

What's some of the advocacy work you've done? I attend South Coast Air Quality Management District meetings and give my testimony. Recently, I spoke for the first time about my father. Of course, I ended up breaking down in front of everybody, but I had to get my point across. 

Where do you go to school? I graduated from San Bernardino Valley College last May and am transferring to UC Berkeley. I plan to get a master's in public policy and social work.

How do you feel about moving to Berkeley? Excited. My friend and I drove up there two weeks ago. We walked around campus for hours, and we didn't even get out of breath.

What do you do when you aren't volunteering for My Generation? Call me crazy, but I'll do anything that has to do with politics. Aside from that, I love to go hiking. The first thing I did when I got accepted to Berkeley was look up all the nearby trails, and I said, "I'm going to do this one, this one, and this one."

Article from Sierra Club