Across the Wards: Diverse viewpoints on a common mission

Last fall, students in George Washington University’s Sustainability Reporting class were sorted into pairs and assigned one of Washington D.C.’s eight wards to cover.

In D.C., the city is divided into eight neighborhoods, or Wards, each represented by a city council member.

Students reported from the wealthiest wards and those that face the challenges of poverty and neglect. But everywhere they met strong, resilient people who are working, sometimes against tremendous odds, to make their communities cleaner, better, and healthier

Across the Wards: Diverse viewpoints on a common mission
Tim Brown/CC BY-NC 2.0 Deed

Professors Frank Sesno and John Sutter co-taught the class and encouraged the students to seek out local stories with broad implications on sustainability. By focusing on the city home to the George Washington University’s campus, the students deepened their relationship with the landscape of D.C. and discovered newfound appreciation for local reporting.

While broad national action often grabs top headlines, staying up to date on what’s happening “in your backyard” can so often be an under-appreciated method of engagement. Reading about the stories of local figures like environmental activist Dennis Chestnut or sustainable business owner Amanda Stephenson, can be a force of reconnection to one’s immediate surroundings and inform readers of movements that they can easily become a part of.

This series is the product of the Sustainability Reporting class at the George Washington University, which sent out teams of reporters into each of D.C.’s wards to talk to citizens, leaders, and entrepreneurs. The assignments were community-based, intended to get a fuller sense of how climate change, sustainability, and environmental justice are resonating across the city — from downtown to commercial districts, from underserved and underreported communities to wealthier communities.