Oakdale Elementary Ozone Garden With Deneeka’s Chance

Guest Blog by Deneeka’s Chance

Deneeka’s Chance is a nonprofit organization — inspired by HBCU (Historically Black College or University) alumni Jameel Moore, Verdant Julius, and Leslie Jackson — that targets minority students and underserved or underrepresented communities. We aim to educate students and raise awareness of research and career options in science, health, and medicine.

These fields can carry a negative stigma for many students, likely due to an overload of information, their complexity, limited attention span, and the lack of engagement and enthusiasm from professionals. This makes it difficult for students to connect to the field in which they may find the most potential, limiting their career options.

“We believe in a world where every student has the chance to discover and nurture their passion for science and medicine despite socioeconomic status, race, or gender.”

We also believe in providing opportunities for students who may not know whether a career in science, health, or medicine is the right path for them. With an emphasis on reaching underrepresented and underserved students, our organization is committed to partnering with Title I schools and more across North Carolina and South Carolina to increase the pipeline for marginalized and overlooked students to pursue careers in these fields.

Our organization’s CEO and founder, Jameel Moore, is inspired by his mother, Deneeka Burs, who has been ill for all of his life. For Jameel, Deneeka is the gold standard for character and integrity. He describes her as smart, comedic, and hardworking, despite her medical challenges. At age 13, Deneeka was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, and over time, Jameel witnessed all sides of the public health system. Since then, he devoted his life to public health advocacy to combat healthcare system-related problems. Through the organization’s work with CleanAIRE NC, we have been able to achieve our goal of increasing minority enrollment in the field of science in a unique way.

At a recent Foundation For The Carolinas event on the importance of closing racial wealth gaps, Jameel met Gerald Babao, Deputy Director for CleanAIRE NC. They quickly discovered their mutual interest in environmental health and research.

Gerald exposed Jameel to the importance of air quality and the adverse health impacts of air pollution and climate change. Since COVID-19, projects at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have been at a standstill. Jameel saw an opportunity. He gathered the community in Charlotte’s Historic West End to encourage elementary students to be the next generation of agricultural researchers and scientists!

Gardens Build Relationships & Community

Since then, Oakdale Elementary School in Charlotte, NC built its first-ever Ozone Garden. “Master Gardener Mary Stauble mentioned something very insightful at the beginning of our relationship,” said Jameel. “Gardens are used to build relationships and communities.”

This is the case for Oakdale Elementary! Students, faculty, interns, and members of the Alpha Epsilon Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi at Johnson C. Smith University united to create something beautiful for future generations of students to see and behold.

This garden will also be tied with a research program that Deneeka’s Chance plans to execute in the fall in collaboration with CleanAIRE NC’s Community Science Program. This will include growing crops to analyze, interpret, and present raw data. The experience will teach students how to become modern-day researchers and scientists.

CleanAIRE NC demonstrates what advocacy looks like in the science world. For the next generation’s leaders in science, research, and medicine, it’s critical to understand how you can be a part of a revolution in fields that are modernizing every day. Deneeka’s Chance is extremely proud to have experienced this with CleanAIRE NC, and grateful to establish our first partnership with them. Together, we created Oakdale Elementary’s Deneeka’s Chance Ozone Garden.

oakdale garden group