Climate & Urban Systems Partnership

Philadelphia’s Climate & Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP) is a group of informal science educators, climate scientists, learning scientists, and community partners in four Northeast U.S. cities—Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, and Washington, D.C.—funded by the National Science Foundation to explore innovative ways to educate city residents about climate change.

Kirtrina Baxter was born in 1969 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. She grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Willingboro, New Jersey, where her parents are Evangelical pastors. Katrina spent childhood summers in Philadelphia visiting extended family. After her college years she moved to Mt. Airy and then Northern Liberties in Philadelphia. Kirtrina’s spiritual journey—from an evangelical upbringing, through radical black cosmologies, to earthly goddess readings, and especially the experience of becoming a mother—all inspired her deep relationship with nature. After living with her daughter in upstate New York for many years, Kirtrina returned to Philadelphia in the early 2000s to build coalitions with urban farmers, especially within Philadelphia’s black community. Working out of the Law Center (formerly PILCOP), Kirtrina coorganizes the Soil Generation coalition. She also serves as a board member and farm manager with Urban Creators in North Philadelphia.

Eileen Flanagan was born in Philadelphia in 1962. She grew up in a one-bedroom apartment in Bala Cynwyd, just outside of Philadelphia. She attended Friends Central High School and graduated from Duke University. In the mid-1980s Eileen served in the Peace Corps in Botswana, in southern Africa. After returning to the United States she earned a master’s degree in African studies from Yale University. Eileen then moved back to Pennsylvania to become a writer and teacher who explores topics in spirituality, social justice, and environmental justice. Eileen married and in her early thirties became a mother to two children. Her religious affiliation, as part of the Society for Friends, is Quaker. Eileen lives in Philadelphia, where she serves as board chair of Earth Quaker Action Team.

Adam Garber was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1983. He has three sisters, including a twin, and both his parents have PhDs. Adam and his family were very involved in their synagogue and Atlanta’s Jewish community. At the same time, Adam attended private Protestant Christian elementary, middle, and high schools. Adam studied philosophy at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland. While working summers with Georgia PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) on air-quality issues, he considered himself politicized by politicians’ efforts to limit pollution controls despite public desire for clear air. After college graduation Adam worked for two years with New Jersey PIRG to help pass state-level clean-energy policies. He then accepted a position with PennEnvironment, an environmental nonprofit in Philadelphia, where he became deputy director and has worked for nearly a decade.

Peter Handler was born in 1947 in Brooklyn, New York, and spent much of his childhood in New Jersey. Self-described as an atheist-Jew, Peter spent his summers as a teenager at the Shaker Village Work Camp in New Lebanon, New York. Much of his life since has focused either on building or making himself part of communities. Peter studied political science at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, where he spent winters skiing at Sugarloaf Mountain. On graduation in 1968 Peter applied to his draft board as a conscientious objector. He spent the summer of 1969 living near Acadia National Park and attended Woodstock Music Festival. For several years after he lived in a commune near Ithaca, New York. In the late 1970s Peter earned his MFA in jewelry-making and metalsmithing from the School for American Craftsmen at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Peter moved to Philadelphia in 1982 and became a furniture maker in 1984. He has remained in Philadelphia and still constructs custom studio furniture for people’s homes. Early in 2012 Peter helped found the Philadelphia chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby and became its group leader.

Tykee James was born on January 21, 1994, at Temple Hospital in North Philadelphia. He soon moved with his parents to the Fort Irwin Army Base in the High Mojave Desert of California. In 2000, after his parents’ separation, he moved with his mother and brothers to Racine, Wisconsin, where Tykee began Latin dancing. In 2009 his family then moved to northwestern Texas. In Texas, Tykee played football, competed regionally with a Latin dance team, and argued on the debate team. In 2011, just before his senior year of high school, he returned with his family to Philadelphia. On arriving in West Philadelphia, Tykee suffered a severe asthma attack that forced his hospitalization and ignited his concern for clean air. On recovery Tykee attended Motivation High School and, as a subcontractor with the Philadelphia Water Department, became a public educator and naturalist with Cobbs Creek Environmental Center. Now a student at Temple University, Tykee is pursuing a degree in communications with a focus on rhetoric and public advocacy. He also works as a legislative aid to the Honorable Donna Bullock, who represents Philadelphia’s 195th District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

Damali Rhett was born in October 1977, in Cleveland, Ohio. Her name derives from a Nigerian praise poem and means “beautiful vision.” As an infant, Damali moved to Washington, D.C. During high school Damali was accepted into Phillips Andover Academy’s Math and Science for Minority Students summer program. Damali attended Dartmouth College, where she majored in social psychology and minored in theater. After college Damali worked in public relations and finance in New York City. Damali returned to Dartmouth and in 2006 earned her MBA from the Tuck School of Business. Then, based in Washington, D.C., she worked for several years as a consultant on energy and utilities. Damali now helps Philadelphians increase their renewable energy use for a sustainable future. In November 2016 she became executive director of the Energy Co-op, a nonprofit and member-owned retail energy cooperative that serves thousands of homes and businesses in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Pouné Saberi was born in Tehran, Iran, and experienced the 1979 Iranian Revolution as a child. Her family left Iran in the mid-1980s during its war with Iraq and settled briefly in Boston. Pouné’s parents and younger sister returned to Iran in 1989, but Pouné stayed to graduate from Commonwealth High School and attend the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 1999 she earned her MD and a master’s degree in public health from Tufts University School of Medicine, where she helped found Sharewood, a free medical clinic. Pouné then moved to Philadelphia where in 2002 she completed her residency in family medicine and community health at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Pouné later became the primary care provider at a federally qualified health-care facility at Sayer High School in West Philadelphia. In 2012, after increased concern about environmental toxins, she completed a second residency in occupational and environmental medicine. Pouné now works in Philadelphia as an occupational medicine doctor and serves on the national and Philadelphia board of Physicians for Social Responsibility, with whom she works on projects related to health and natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale regions of Pennsylvania.

Jalyn Williams was born in Philadelphia in January 2001. She has lived in West Philadelphia, in Upper Darby, and in Chester. Jalyn is an honors student at Central High School in Philadelphia, a four-year college preparatory magnet school consistently ranked among the top schools in Pennsylvania and one of the oldest public schools in the United States. When not studying or volunteering for local environmental causes, Jalyn enjoys playing video games and has a passion for equality.