Michelle Barron (pictured in first row) is a Fresno-based Program Associate for Beneficial State Foundation’s Clean Vehicle Assistance Program.
Growing up in the small town of Selma, California, I’ve grown to appreciate the simplicities of driving through the countryside while enjoying the warm breeze of a Spring evening filled with the aroma of orange blossoms. Moments like these provide the inspiration that feeds my passion for sustainability and service. However, my perspective on living in the Central Valley wasn’t always so bright. As the daughter of a landscaper, I remember helping my dad pull weeds and plant flowers, all the while watching a man in a white suit spray the vineyard across the street. At a young age, I knew that this was not right, but didn’t have the words to articulate it at the time. Because of experiences like this one, I learned to dislike the fact that home was in the Central Valley.
Eager to leave the Valley, I attended the University of California, Santa Cruz and received my Bachelor’s degree in sociology. My volunteer experience with the Homeless Garden Project and academic work during undergrad altered the trajectory of how I chose to live my life from that point on. Particularly, the sense of community that I felt while volunteering peaked my curiosity to learn more, making me feel like I was part of something bigger. With a yearning to gain a better understanding of myself and how to apply my passion for sustainability in my career, I completed two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) and Climate Corps Fellow. My most recent experience as a Climate Corps Fellow with Valley Clean Air Now was essential in changing my perception of the Valley. As I marketed the EFMP program in the Fresno County area, I spent time networking and volunteering with a local environmental justice organization. It was reassuring and inspiring to surround myself with individuals who are fighting for clean air and pesticide reform, and who are invested in the community all around. In conjunction, I had the opportunity to be a co-presenter at the Chico State Sustainability Conference to discuss the environmental justice movement in the Central Valley. Through my immersion in the environmental justice movement in the Valley, I came to realize that the Central Valley is a land of opportunity.
That said, I am so grateful and excited to be a Program Associate with Beneficial State Foundation’s new Clean Vehicle Assistance Program. Funded by the California Air Resources Board as part of California Climate Investments, Beneficial State Foundation will launch the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program starting May of 2018. The Program aims to serve disadvantaged communities in California, to help them purchase a new or used hybrid or electric vehicle with grant assistance (ranging from $2,500-$5,000) and provide the option of a low interest loan through Beneficial State Bank. Complimenting the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project and Clean Cars 4 All programs, the Clean Vehicle Assistance Program will collaborate with both to better meet the air quality standards and auto-lending needs of California residents who qualify as low-income.
I am proud to be a part of an organization that is committed to investing in the well-being of our community and environment, and I look forward to seeing our program serve residents from the region I grew up in.
This blog post reflects the author’s personal views and opinions, and does not represent the views and opinions of Beneficial State Bank and/or Beneficial State Foundation.