Daily News Archives
From February 18, 2005
Activist Named Award Finalist for Advocating Policies to Protect Children
(Beyond Pesticides, February 18, 2005) Robina Suwol, a Van Nuys mother, who after seeing her children enter their school through a toxic cloud of pesticide spray, created California Safe Schools, an organization that put in place the most stringent pesticide policy in the nation for schools, has been named a finalist in the Third Annual Volvo for life Awards. As a finalist, she is guaranteed to receive a $25,000 charitable contribution, with a chance to receive a $50,000 donation and a Volvo every three years for life.
The Volvo for Life Awards is the nation's largest search for and celebration of everyday heroes, with Volvo Cars of North America providing $1 million annually in awards and contributions. The distinguished judges' panel, including the experts on care, conscience and character Hank Aaron, Bill Bradley, Caroline Kennedy, Maya Lin, Paul Newman, Dr. Sally Ride, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, will now review Ms. Suwol and eight other finalists to select the program's top three winners in the categories of safety, environment and quality of life.
In 1998, Ms. Suwol watched her sons walk through a white cloud near the entrance of their school, where the school gardener, dressed in full protective gear, was spraying pesticide. Her youngest son had a severe asthma attack, and she took action. After learning from medical experts, environmentalists, scientists and experts to learn more about safer, more effective methods of using of managing pests around children, she presented her findings to the Los Angeles Unified School District. With full support, she brought together parents, physicians, environmentalists and the county health department, among other stakeholders, to form California Safe Schools.
The organization persuaded the school district -- the second largest in the country -- to adopt the "most stringent school pesticide policy in the nation." The policy was the first in the U.S. to embrace the "precautionary principle" and "Parents' Right to Know" about chemicals being used in or around school campuses. The policy has benefited the nearly one million students, 60,000 teachers and thousands of staff members in the district, as well as the health and well- being of all Californians. In fact, the policy led to the California Healthy Schools Act of 2000, which recommends school districts develop Integrated Pest Management Policies. And today, the policy is being replicated nationally.
This year's Volvo program, launched in June 2004, called for individuals nationwide to nominate a hometown hero. Volvo received 4,272 nominations representing all 50 states. Volvo will fly the three category winners and six remaining finalists to New York for the Volvo for life Awards Times Square Studios, Ltd. ceremony on March 24, 2005. At the event, program judges will present each winner with a $50,000 contribution to the charity of his or her choice. In addition, they will announce the program's grand winner, who will receive a new Volvo car every three years for the rest of his or her life and the distinction of "America's Greatest Hometown Hero." The six remaining finalists will each receive a donation of $25,000 to the charities of their choice.
"Each year with the Volvo for life Awards, we seek to not only recognize everyday heroes, but to likewise inspire others to do good in their communities," said Vic Doolan, president and chief executive officer of Volvo Cars of North America. "While Ms. Suwol and the other finalists' stories are unique, they share a passion for creating change within their communities that will have lasting impacts for generations to come."
Ms. Suwol currently serves on the Beyond Pesticides Board of Directors.