Matt Leonetti had no idea that his film about pollution in Santa Monica Bay would create such a stir. Last week, the senior at Loyola High School in Los Angeles was selected as runner-up of the 1992 President's Environmental Youth Awards.
Although the project was completed nearly two years ago when the Pacific Palisades resident was a sophomore, "The Drain" has attracted a lot of publicity nationwide. It was recently featured at the U.S. Environmental Film Festival in Santa Monica and it was shown at the Napa Film Festival last spring. He was also profiled in Seventeen magazine as a teen hero.
"During the past year, there was a lot of publicity on the environment," the 17-year-old student said. "The funny thing is, we never expected people to be interested in what young minds had to say."
The film came about when Leonetti decided to make a video for a biology project rather than write a research paper. At first, he didn't have any ideas for the assignment. Then it rained one afternoon, and the beach near his home was heavily polluted.
"I thought this would be an opportune time to do something on storm drain pollution," he said.
He enlisted the help of his friend David Armstrong, the youth minister at St. Matthew's Parish School in Pacific Palisades, who arranged for Leonetti to use the school's video equipment.
Filmed along Will Rogers State Beach and near the Pico-Kenter drain in Santa Monica, Leonetti produced a six-minute documentary, which shows what happens when trash is thrown into neighborhood gutters and how it eventually ends up in Santa Monica Bay. It also includes an interview with Mark Gold, staff scientist for Heal the Bay.
"It is an educational film that doesn't offer any solutions but it shows why the pollution is there and how it gets to the beach," Leonetti said. "I hope people will see what they do when they open their oil pan and let it flow into the gutter."
Over the summer, Leonetti worked as an intern for Heal the Bay, helping set up the environmental group's "Adopt-a-Storm Drain" program. He continues to work there part time now that school has resumed.
Leonetti is uncertain what he will study when he starts college. He is interested in learning to be a cinematographer like his father but he also feels drawn toward environmental engineering.
Stan Speth, a captain with the Beverly Hills Fire Department, was given the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce Award, recognizing him for professional excellence and community service. Speth has worked for the Fire Department for 17 years.
Phillip and Dorothy Lyon of Los Angeles donated $200,000 to support research at the new Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
The couple donated the money through the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America. It will support a two-year research project at the Los Angeles hospital focusing on what genetic factors lead to a susceptibility to Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
The Adirondacks National Exhibition of American Watercolors awarded the Austin Award and $500 cash to Jonathan Blatt of Los Angeles.
Blatt, whose work was chosen from among 900 entries, was recognized for his painting "Snowfall at Bath Abbey."
Carl Terzian, a West Los Angeles public relations executive, has been elected president of the Los Angeles Fire Commission.
Appointed to the commission three years ago by Mayor Tom Bradley and confirmed by the Los Angeles City Council, Terzian will serve a five-year term.
The commission establishes policies and procedures for the Los Angeles County Fire Department.