IDA Advocate helps teens open eyes to light pollution in Chicago

Each month the International Dark-Sky Association features an IDA Advocate from the worldwide network of volunteers who are working to protect the night. This month we’re highlighting the work of IDA Delegate, Rosalía Lugo. 

Self-described as “a true believer in the potential of working-class youth of color,” IDA Delegate Rosalía Lugo works as the teen programs manager at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois. With a master’s in education policy, organization, and leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Lugo says she likes working with young people “because they are so smart and want to learn.” She also says that the teens she works with open her eyes to seeing other views and understanding things differently.

Through the Youth Organization for Lights Out (YOLO) program that she manages, Lugo is helping dozens of teens open their eyes to the problem of light pollution and see the beauty of naturally dark places.

YOLO started in a biology class at World Language High School in Chicago and is now primarily an afterschool program in partnership with Adler Planetarium’s Teen Programs. Through the program, students in YOLO take trips outside of the city to experience naturally dark skies. In August of this year, the teens visited Middle Fork River Forest Preserve, the first International Dark Sky Park in Illinois. Leaving the city is a novel experience for many of the YOLO teens, and they often find dark places scary or bad at first. On another visit to the Indiana Dunes National Park, the teens not only experienced the dark sky above them, they were also able to observe the bright sky over their home of Chicago in comparison.

Lugo teaches the students that light pollution is not just an astronomy issue—it’s an environmental justice issue. She helps them understand that the way we use light at night affects habitats, economics, and policy. She encourages the students to get involved and become advocates for their community, the Little Village neighborhood, and stresses that you don’t have to be at a planetarium to enjoy or learn about the sky.

Read more from the International Dark Sky Association here.