Academic Partnerships

CleanAirNow recognizes the importance of university-based & health institutions research and/or  projects to grassroots community organizing.  When aligned with community leadership and rooted in the Jemez Principles of Democratic Organizing & Principles of Environmental Justice  academic partnerships can significantly advance the achievement of environmental justice. CleanAirNow also recognizes that academic research projects may  not be planned, funded nor conducted with community guidance and without a commitment to environmental justice principles.  CleanAirNow acknowledges that absent the community control of research initiatives, the production of knowledge could be harmful to the community and our organizational partners. It also replicates the cultures of colonial mentality, exploitation, and extraction that our organization fully resists.       

CleanAirNow has instituted the following policy guidelines to ensure that academic researchers wishing  to partner with us on community-based research projects are accountable to environmental justice leadership and principles, CleanAirNow requests that researchers who are interested in partnering with CleanAirNow consult these guidelines and reflect upon their training to conduct de-colonial research projects to create  transformative research partnerships.  

CleanAirNow  Academic Partnership SIX GUIDELINES:

  1. Research Design: CleanAirNow  supports community-based research projects that are initiated through a collaborative process.  Research questions, methods of data collection, and in some cases research writing, should be developed collaboratively with CleanAirNow and agreed upon.  CleanAirNow  will not participate in projects where the research is designed prior to consulting CleanAirNow.
  2. Staff Capacity and Compensation:  Researchers must account for the fact that environmental justice organizations such as CleanAirNow  are severely under-resourced and prioritize community organizing.  CleanAirNow supports community-based research projects that adequately compensates staff and directors for their time, knowledge, and contributions to the successful completion of a research project.  University researchers must be prepared to explain how their project will provide resources and plenty of time to coordinate with CleanAirNow staff and director in order to not strain CleanAirNow  staff capacity and commitments to organizing.
  3. Fundraising:  CleanAirNow supports community-based research projects that incorporate collaborative grant proposal strategies and practices.  University researchers should be fully transparent about fundraising for research, and in some cases be willing to be a secondary partner on a research proposal.  Researchers should also be open to introducing CleanAirNow to foundations and other funding partners.  
  4. Intellectual Property:  CleanAirNow  supports community-based research projects that explicitly recognize that knowledge produced through a collaborative process belongs to CleanAirNow.  In academic publications and public disseminations of research, CleanAirNow must also be given full credit as a research partner.
  5. Student Intern Management: CleanAirNow supports the participation of university students, particularly students of color, in community-based research projects.  In the cases where student interns will be utilized for conducting research, university researchers should be prepared to discuss how student interns will be compensated and managed throughout the research process.
  6. Memorandum of Agreement:  To ensure the integrity of a research project CleanAirNow supports the use of MOA’s with researchers and university colleges to set partnership ground rules, alignment principles, accountability mechanisms, and compensation rates.  CleanAirNow will not participate in research projects where researchers are unwilling to enter into a MOA process with CleanAirNow  and compensate the organization for time committed to MOA development

For more clarity please call me at 323-313-2253 or send me an email at

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Atenas Mena

Atenas Mena is the Environmental Health Director and shares a co-leadership role at CleanAirNow. Atenas was born and raised in Kansas City and is a proud first-generation Mexican American. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Avila University in 2014 and went on to receive her master’s in nursing leadership from Missouri Western State University in 2019.

In addition to working as a nurse, Atenas received extensive environmental health training in the field, working with the Children’s Mercy Environmental Health Program team, as both an educator and a team coordinator. She has worked continuously throughout the last few years with CleanAirNow through boots-on-the-ground projects, served on the board of directors, and has recently transitioned into the current leadership role as Environmental Health Director. Atenas centers her work around reducing health inequities, educating communities on environmental health impacts, and empowering community members to have a voice and fight for equity and environmental justice.

Atenas recently received The Sapling Award in recognition of her outstanding commitment and leadership in environmental health nursing. This Award seeks to recognize a nurse leader who goes beyond everyday nursing endeavors to actively promote and protect environmental and human health and advance environmental justice.

Beto Lugo Martinez

Beto is an environmental justice organizer and co-executive director of CleanAirNow. He serves to raise community voices in the fight against environmental racism and to overcome the systemic exclusion of frontline communities from the decision-making process. His lived experience, growing up fenceline to a petrochemical facility continues to drive his work at the intersection of climate, environmental justice, and public health. He is a founding member of the California Environmental Justice Coalition, Co-Founder of La Union Hace La Fuerza, a farmworker justice organization and member of national CJ & EJ networks including the EJ Leadership Forum, Building Equity and Alignment (BEA) and the National Leadership Advisory Board Member of the Moving Forward Network.

Beto’s contributions to the movement include organizing, legislation that prioritizes environmental justice and community-led research amongst many other community-engaged initiatives that directly inform state policy. He has co-authored multiple academic publications on community-based participatory research, air pollution, data accessibility, and community engagement. In August 2023 was invited to continue serving through 2025 as a member of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act Advisory Committee, to represent a grassroots frontline perspective. He also serves in advisory board roles of professional associations and academic institutions, such as the American Public Health Association’s Center for Climate, Health and Equity, Children’s Environmental Health Sciences Translational Research at USC, Community Engagement Core of the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center at USC, Health Effects Institute Environmental Justice Advisory Group and USC MPH Public Health Advisory Board Member for the Trojan Scholars for Advancement in Public Health.

Beto is currently involved in a research project titled “Building Momentum to Bridge Climate and Health Across KU Campuses and the Community supported by the Health Humanities and Arts Research Collaborative, The Commons, and the Office of Research at the University of Kansas.”