Meet Deja Rawls: Sankofa Freedom Academy Senior Interns with TTF

Julie Slavet
Feb 19, 2015

My name is Deja Rawls and I am a seventeen year old senior at Sankofa Freedom Academy charter in Frankford. Seniors are required to participate in a 6-8 week internship to learn more about a particular topic, and are also given the opportunity to explore this topic through international service.


My internship at TTF will focus on water pollution. For my international service project, I will travel to Ethiopia for two weeks and explore Ethopian life, school systems and the environment. I will record in my journal every day and present a final power point, sharing my my project research and experiences.

My main focus of research will be on Health Disparities among African American children and Asthma in urban areas and my community. I will examine the impact of pollution on African American children with asthma, pollutants that trigger asthma in urban areas, both outdoors and indoors, and how laws are being enforced to prevent pollution. In order to provide various perspectives on this topic, my internship will be divided into data that has been gathered from print media and Internet research, survey data, interviews and other qualitative data.

Through my research, I have already learned that there has been a dramatic increase in the prevalence of asthma over the past few decades. The rates have grown the most in urban settings due to changes in environmental exposures. In urban areas the focus has been on outdoor air pollution. Individuals at risk for related asthma include the elderly and young children.

Air and water pollution are so important to me because they not only affect my community, but my family as well. Both of my brothers are victims of pollution and have been diagnosed with asthma. My younger brother has had asthma since he was young, and my older brother caught asthma from being locked up in an urban area surrounded by power lants. Throughout my little brother’s seven years of life, I have seen him struggle at almost everything that a normal breathing child should be able to do. Seeing his struggle has motivated me to become a Respiratory Therapist to help other sick children and elderly individuals fight this battle.

I expect that my findings will support the assertion that the failure to enforce pollution laws contributes to the incidence of African Americans living in urban areas being at a higher risk of contracting asthma.

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