Some exciting changes have happened lately at the Hoosier Environmental Council!

Paula Brooks, HEC’s Environmental Justice Director
Paula Brooks promoted to Environmental Justice Director

We are pleased to share that Paula Brooks has been promoted to Environmental Justice Director. Paula has been with HEC since 2016 and has taken leadership on numerous environmental justice (EJ) projects in her community and beyond as both a citizen volunteer and as staff member of HEC. With Paula’s deep connections in the Indianapolis community, she has helped influence projects including Reclaim Indiana Avenue, Citizens Energy DigIndy Tunnel (Phase Three), and the Site 0153 Groundwater Contamination Cleanup. 

Environmental justice refers to work that helps amplify voices and improve quality of life for residents in vulnerable communities which have traditionally felt the worst effects of bad environmental practices and policies. It is not uncommon for industry and polluting power generation to be located near or in communities of color and other marginalized neighborhoods. As a result, disproportionate instances of lead poisoning, asthma, and other health related challenges persist in these areas. In addition, challenges to quality of life through the noise, dust, and odors associated with heavy equipment, transport, and production are more likely. 

“We are not opposed to development,” says Paula, “but we want it to be done responsibly and we want the community where it is located to have a voice in how it is done and receive some benefits from it.”   Paula’s promotion is a first step in expanding HEC’s environmental justice efforts. Paula has a vision for connecting EJ community activists across the state. “Currently in Indiana we don’t have a network to share information, best practices, and support one another in our EJ efforts” says Paula. “Having that type of support can strengthen the impact we have.” 

Welcome to the team, Katya Drake & Jocelyn Keranen!

An expansion of HEC’s EJ work is a natural connection to HEC’s environmental health efforts. These also have grown in recent months with the hiring of Katya Drake, Environmental Health and Justice Associate, and Jocelyn Keranen, Environmental Health Project Manager. 

Katya Drake, HEC’s Environmental Health and Justice Associate

Katya joined HEC in December of last year and is working on a project related to environmental causes of childhood asthma as well as assisting with HEC’s EJ efforts. 

“I strive to help others understand the link between the environment and asthma,” says Katya. “I also work with local communities on a variety of projects and help build relationships that are a key factor in bringing about desired change. Joining forces with the Hoosier Environmental Council fuels my enthusiasm, because of the vital work we do and our shared commitment to our natural environment.” 

Jocelyn Keranen, HEC’s Environmental Health Project Manager

Jocelyn was hired in January of this year to manage a state-funded project with a goal of testing more children for lead in high-risk communities across the state. The Indiana State Conference of the NAACP and five Minority Health Coalition members will partner with HEC to raise awareness in targeted communities. 

“One thing I love about my work at HEC is it allows me to combine my passion for environmental justice and public health. In my current role, I get to engage with key stakeholders to protect children and families from toxic lead. HEC has long been engaged in environmental health issues across the state and advocated for policy that aligns with CDC’s lead reference value. That’s a big win for preventing permanent damage caused by lead poisoning. I’m excited to be a part of HEC and look forward to contributing to work that supports Hoosier health and the health of our environment,” says Jocelyn. 

Environmental justice and environmental health are two growing areas of focus for HEC. Growing our team and increasing the impact we have in Indiana communities takes resources. Please consider making a gift today to support our team and the important work we do. Thank you!