Empowering our Youth for Change.
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April 13 2008
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)
1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."
One of my most impactful experiences has been Boy Scouts. I was a scout for 9 years, and during that time I learned an incredible amount about the power of young people. If scouts want something to happen or change, it is on them to figure it out and do it. We were able to accomplish many things that I thought we needed adults for, such as planning a backpacking trip, or hosting a successful fundraiser. I saw many non-scouts with great ideas not act because they waited for adults to step in and do them. I believe this is because most young people don’t know their full potential to make a change on their own, and simply need opportunities for them to realize that. I joined Greening Forward so I could use my experiences to help young people learn about the real the impact they can have on the world.
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Young people are not involved enough in the course of our environmental future. Young people are the ones who will be impacted most by the decisions being made today. This should mean that we have the largest voice in terms of what is being done to fix it. However, young people are largely left out of the conversation by adults, partly because they do not think we can help. Getting young people involved is the best way to fix that stereotype.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Our approach to solving this problem is to give young people the skills and resources they need so that they are capable of creating change on their own. We do this through several methods, two of which are our IYEYS conference and our Earth Saver’s Club program. IYEYS is a student-led conference through which we equip youth with the tools they need to create positive change in their communities through workshops, exercises and speakers. Once young people learn how they can take real action, then they often need support and guidance to turn that vision into a reality. We can provide them this support through the Earth Savers Club. The Club works with students through the different steps of their projects, where we can give them relevant advice and helping them to gain funding, work with community leaders, and work with their team. The young people who take part in IYEYS and the Earth Savers Club will leave with the skills and knowledge necessary to become the next generation of leaders in the environmental field, and since they have already had real experience in creating change they will be able to have a much bigger impact.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.
In 2013, a young person named Sean Russell reached out to our organization asking how he could become more involved in the environmental movement. We told him that he should come to IYEYS and learn from the different perspectives there. He came and fully embraced the summit, and was inspired by a few of the workshops. He left ideas on how to reduce plastic and marine debris pollution in our oceans, and began working on making them happen. He then applied to join the Earth Savers Club. He had developed a really cool idea of how to recycle fishing line, and needed some resources to make his project happen. We granted him $450, and gave him advice on how to go forward with his idea. His project has turned into a whole organization called Stow It Don’t Throw It, which has inspired hundreds of young people.
5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?
Many organizations that try to empower youth are comprised of adults who aren’t at the same stage of their lives as the youth they are trying to help. This can make it difficult for younger people to relate to them. Greening Forward is unique because we are entirely made up of young people. We can say “You are a young person wanting to make an impact in the world. We are all young people who are currently making a big impact. Let us use our experiences to help you achieve your goals.” We are role models to youth who feel empowered seeing people similar to them doing what they envision.
6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Our organization has made an impact on many levels so far. Our IYEYS, now in its 6th year, has had over 400 students come and learn valuable changemaking skills. Through the Earth Savers Club, we have worked with over 50 different youth groups on projects that span from building community gardens, to starting monthly stream water monitoring, to converting their school’s food waste to compost. We have developed a series of How-To guides directed to youth that cover how to fundraise, construct a team, and work with schools and community leaders. Most recently, we concluded a blog contest where we gave students across the country the opportunity to write about an environmental issue they feel passionate about. We had over 60 students send in blogs, and we were able to relay those to our network to further show the world how much young people care.
7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?
IYEYS has a lot of potential for increasing the amount of students that attend next year, and we can do that by expanding both our outreach and the variety of programs we can offer at the conference. By including more workshops and organizations, and increasing the quality of speakers we can bring in, we can teach a more diverse skill-set to students, and expose them to a greater variety of different topics.
I also want to expand our How-To Guides. Currently, we have around sixty resources for students that they can use to increase environmental awareness in their communities. Since people learn in different ways, I want to create a series of mini-videos, that are basically the How-To guides shortened into minute-long clips.
8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?
The two biggest things we need are passionate people to work in our organization, and funding to make our programs happen. Greening Forward can only go as far as our team can take it, and the more outgoing, creative people that we have in our group the more that we can offer to youth. It gives us different talents and skill sets that we can apply to our work, unique perspectives that can be really useful in finding the best ways to engage a diverse group of young people.
In addition to team members, we could also really use funding for our programs. The videos need a group to produce them, and more funding for IYEYS can be put towards better facilities and programs that we can offer.
9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?
Donations less than $100
Donations between $100-$1k
Donations between $1k-$5k
10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.
We are always looking for passionate young people to join Greening Forward and contribute as staff and youth council members. Getting young people engaged in an organizational setting helps a lot with teaching them how to work in teams, and to show them how we approach a goal. More than anything, the atmosphere at Greening Forward gives our young staff the chance to step outside their comfort zone and try something new. I really try to encourage our team members to develop ideas that they have and try implementing them to improve our organization's mission. This gives young people the opportunity to identify problems and come up with creative solutions, which is what we will need to do to make a big different in the world.
In addition to that, we would love to partner with any other young people in this program so that we can use our own experiences to help them with their own projects. We have worked with a lot of young groups across the country on their own projects, giving them support from a similar perspective. Events like this challenge provide us the opportunity to develop our relationships with these young people, and give them help however we can.
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