Local teen joins with China for cleanup


Andrew Leonard sees the world as a musical chord - different strings, played together, to create harmony. It's also the theme of his award winning environmental project by this Crystal Springs Uplands High School student. The story begins in Beijing, China with Leonard visiting his relatives.

"In past years I've noticed pollution has only gotten worse and worse. First it was you could see 100 yards, now it's about 100 feet," said Leonard.

Leonard's project is what he describes as the first ever joint ecological project between the United States and China.

Junipero Serra Park in San Bruno is where Leonard and his friends planted trees and cleaned the river bed, at the exact same time; students in Beijing cleaned the park at a local school. One small step for the environment, one giant leap for international relations.

"We filmed it and then posted it on YouTube - so kids from America and China could watch each other work. When we wore matching t-shirts it was great. Kids in China could see kids in the U.S. and say hey we're buddies now and we're partners. That's the big thing - we're partners now," said Leonard.

The Chinese government at first wouldn't let the video from Beijing be sent out on YouTube, but eventually relented. Leonard credits his 7th grade science teacher Leni Liakos with sparking his environmentalism. She's not surprised he got things done where adult environmentalists could not.

"Andrew doesn't have any ulterior motives except to do the right thing. When you see a kid like that, it's hard to say no," said Liakos.

For years, western ecologists, experts, tried to get China to join them. I tried the partnership method - in which I look to China as a partner, as a friend - not as someone to wag my finger at," said Leonard.

The non-profit group, Action for Nature, recognized Leonard's work with an award in a national competition. Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has also thanked Andrew for his efforts.

"Right now we're just cleaning up parks, but in the future when kids grow up and they all start doing their own thing, when there's problems in the world they'll say back in 7th grade, back in 8th grade - I worked with China so maybe in the future I can work with China," said Leonard.

You see, Leonard sees the world as a musical chord; different strings played together to create harmony.

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