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Dolores Perales' Story

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Dolores Perales and her mom thought maybe Dolores was just working out too hard. As a high school athlete, Dolores would play sports and “always be out of breath.”  It got so bad that she started sitting out competitions. Finally, Dolores’s mom took her to the doctor, and she was given a diagnosis: asthma.

It wasn’t just Dolores, though. Her little brother had the same condition. And a close cousin down the street in her Mexicantown neighborhood in Detroit had asthma as well.

According to a 2016 Newsweek article, Detroiters are hospitalized for their asthma three times more frequently than other Michiganders. Now, Dolores is using those statistics and her own experiences as motivation to “make changes in my own life.” As a junior at Michigan State, she’s studying environmental studies, sustainability, and epidemiology.  Through education and community outreach, she is “finding ways that things can get better.”

One of those ways is through her work with Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, a nonprofit committed to improving air quality in Detroit, and an organization that has joined with DWEJ on a project called Community Action to Promote Healthy Environments (CA-PHE). The CA-PHE initiative is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and involves research through the School of Public Health at the University of Michigan.

“Having help from other companies and nonprofits that share the same vision—it’s amazing to see all these people coming out and making it happen,” Dolores says.

She says DWEJ’s input critical on policy “so we know how to make changes happen or how they can physically be made. By working together, I feel like we get the end goals done to help the community out.”

As a Southwest Detroit Environment Vision field supervisor over the summer, Dolores also oversees volunteers who are working on infrastructure projects that dovetail with DWEJ’s own community work. This includes cleaning up lots, building rain gardens, and grant writing to create green spaces.

“Pollutants in air have had a huge influence on my health,” Dolores says. “You can’t really escape, and sometimes it can make life hard. Together, we’re making the necessary change so people in the future don’t have to deal with these issues.”

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