Jalonne White-Newsome has been announced as the new Director of Environmental Justice for the White House. White-Newsome’s story is inspiring and shows that it’s never too late to stand up for what you believe is right. For White-Newsome, that was environmental justice.

Source: WebsEdge Science/Youtube

She was an intern for Dow Chemical in high school and college and truly believed that she had found her path in life. Instead of graduate school, she went right into her career as a project engineer at the United States Gypsum Corporation, the continent’s biggest dry-wall producer. She told the American Chemical Society that she intended to work there for 30 years, then retire.

However, she began to notice that the company’s legacy of manufacturing with asbestos was catching up to it. Asbestos is a group of six fibrous minerals that are used to strengthen and even fireproof materials. However, they are far from environmentally friendly and extremely dangerous to breathe in over long periods as they can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.

Source: PBS NewsHour/Youtube

The company filed for bankruptcy protection in 2001 and laid-off workers, including White-Newsome. Now, White-Newsome is switching sides and joining the White House as one of the top environmental justice officials.

“This position brings my work and passions full circle,” said White-Newsome in a press release. “I witnessed early in my personal life and professional career the consequences of valuing profits over people that has unfortunately resulted in a legacy of environmental injustices across our country. However, we have an opportunity to create a new legacy.”

People close to her say that she’s the perfect first for the job. She earned a Ph.D. in environmental health sciences from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Southern Methodist University, a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Northwestern University, and a certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University. She is a lecturer at The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health and has continuously been recognized for her hard work in the field. In 2022, she was named the Crains Detroit Most Notable Leader in Sustainability.

Source: UW SEFS/Youtube

White-Newsome has worked for various foundations and published several peer-reviewed papers on climate’s disproportional impact on public health. She also founded and led Empowering a Green Environment and Economy, LLC, “a strategic consulting firm that focused on transforming communities by using people-centered solutions to combat climate change, improve public health, pursue environmental justice, and advance racial equity.” according to The White House press release.

“Jalonne is a strong and effective champion for communities that have been overburdened by pollution and subjected to decades of environmental injustice,” said CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory. “Jalonne’s ability to listen deeply, bring people together, and find creative solutions will be invaluable as we work to deliver on President Biden’s promise of environmental justice for all.”

White-Newsome and her team worked with various institutions across public and private sectors to make policies, practices, and partnerships to better serve the needs of low-income communities, communities of color, and Indigenous communities.

“It is truly an honor to join the CEQ team and work in an Administration that is committed to advancing environmental justice for all people,” said White-Newsome. “We have a wonderful opportunity to institutionalize practices that will not only change lives, but save lives. I’m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves to expand the number of environmental justice champions inside the walls of our Agencies, while continuing to listen and work collaboratively with environmental justice leaders in communities across this country.”

Many supporters are hoping White-Newsome can help bring environmental justice back to the top of the agenda list after many environmental advocates are losing patience with the Biden administration’s lack of effort. We hope that this will bring the environmental justice that the country needs now more than ever!

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