You know something is going right when, at the end of an intensive program, the graduates are more excited about supporting each other in their final presentations than in the stipends presented at the graduation ceremony!
But most of that credit goes to the individuals, in this case, ten amazing students from the Green School: an Academy for Environmental Careers in Williamsburg (a newly opened public school focused on incorporating sustainability into high school curriculum). Each applied to participate in our inaugural Youth Leadership Intensive, a 50 hour program, funded by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYSDEC) Environmental Justice Community Impact Grant Program, and designed to increase awareness of major environmental issues in New York City, and highlight ways in which the students can become active participants and leaders in addressing those issues. You can see the full curriculum descriptions here.
It was indeed an intensive six weeks, and we wished we could have further explored our topics, which ranged from indoor air pollution as an environmental justice issue, to the psychological benefits of trees, to our current rainwater and sewage systems. And the students were up for it all, whether it was trying to dig out a tire at the East River State Park, create their own mini watersheds, or help the NYC Parks Department in their third tree mapping census.
The Intensive culminated in a series of presentations to family, friends, and mentors. Hosted at the East River State Park - and with generous donations of comestibles food by Whole Foods's Bowery location. Many students focused on the effects - and ways to address - of indoor and outdoor air pollution, which was not surprising: most students had a family member with asthma, or suffered from it themselves. Others considered how technology could help or hurt the environment by examining the role hybrid cars could play. And others brought it closer to home, looking at ways each household can reduce consumption and waste, and promote healthier practices.
And even though it was only six weeks, we will miss each one of those ten students, and we feel truly lucky to have had the chance to get to know them, their individual leadership styles, senses of humor (and letting us know what musical artists were ‘hip’ nowawadays), and sharing with us their stories, backgrounds, ambitions, and goals.
We know that exciting opportunities and adventures await our ten youth leaders, and we look forward to seeing them become leaders in whatever fields they choose!
Last but never least, an enormous and grateful thank you to all the organizations and individuals that donated their time, experience, and passion to making this a valuable - and enjoyable - leadership adventure: Whole Foods, Watershed Agricultural Council, WE-ACT, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation, the United Nations, Queens Botanical Garden, Sims Recycling Center, Brooklyn Grange, Build it Green!, NYC Department of Education, Office of Councilmember Levin, the Aspen Institute, Dr. Stephen Dahmer, Open Space Alliance of North Brooklyn, and the New York City Parks Department!