Homes4Monarchs: "Spreading Seeds of Change with Action and Awareness"

H4M creates free seed packets, events, and gardens across Chicagoland to restore native ecosystems & save species like the monarch butterfly

Photo of The Monarch Master Gordan
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Written by

Additional categories (optional)

  • Education

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

October 31, 2001

Help us stay in touch!

Phone Number: (708) 671-0506 Mailing Address: 12501 S Iroquois Road, Palos Park, IL, 60464

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

H4M Official Website: (You can also find more info about CONEX here by clicking on the "CONEX" tab ------- Homes4Monarchs Petition to Increase Monarch Habitat: ------- H4M Monarch Density Research Project: ------- H4M Youtube Channel:

Date You Started Your Project Started

October 8, 2016 IMPORTANT: Abbreviations Key for this Application: H4M = Homes4Monarchs Chi-land = Chicagoland Area (The area around Chicago, Illinois that Homes4Monarchs primarily serves)

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. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

H4M began by fighting the monarch butterfly’s 90% decline, caused by pesticides that killed milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s food source. Now, H4M fights the decimation of all Midwestern pollinators and prairies due to pesticides and land conversion. Restoring native species produces enormous economic, social, and educational benefits like carbon sequestration, increased crop yields, flood/runoff control, school gardens, and urban renewal.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Homes4Monarchs combats these problems by creating/distributing free native plant seed packets (consists of paper envelope, H4M sticker, seeds, and planting instructions) to Chi-land. In 2016, H4M created/distributed 1,200 milkweed packets. In 2017, I contacted local groups to organize the 1st volunteer events, (where I always start with a 30 min. presentation on monarchs and native plants), leading us to create 4,500. In 2018, by networking with Chi-land environmental organizations, I found tabling and event opportunities. This, combined with expansion into diverse areas like Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, led us to create 15,000 in 2018. In spring/summer 2019, H4M connected with more groups to create native plant seedballs and expand to NW Indiana. Now, H4M is creating 2019 milkweed packets and organizing CONEX and GEFER. By distributing seeds, H4M hopes that people will plant them in their gardens, grow habitat and homes for pollinators like monarchs, inspiring others to follow. By holding free events, we hope to catalyze a grassroots movement towards greater environmental awareness and action to plant native and reap the ecological, social, economic, and educational benefits

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

Since childhood, I loved both monarch butterflies and milkweed, yet saw them less as I grew. 2 months into freshman year, I discovered that the monarchs declined 90% due to lack of milkweed. I soon realized that the best way to get people to plant milkweed was to distribute free milkweed seed packets and educate communities on its importance. H4M now address all Midwestern native species. During a prairie walk in 2018, I was overwhelmed with songbirds singing symphonic cacophonies, the breeze prickling skyscraping grass against my skin, and the kaleidoscope of a million plants and animals. There, I discovered that, due to habitat loss and pesticides, <0.1% of Illinois prairie remains and that ALL native pollinators were decimated. To help, I expanded H4M to ask, How can we reintroduce native plants to the Midwest, and how do we educate the public about their importance to pollinators?

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

This video describes the three reasons I am stepping up to make change in my community and how I am inspiring others to do the same.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Imagine you’re age 10 at a H4M volunteer event. While most our volunteers are under 18, you might be at a public school, Sunday School, Scouts, or Mosque summer camp. You first learn about the monarch butterfly, pollinators, and prairie, then assemble seed packets, then end with a game. Imagine you’re 15, a freshman at Stagg High School (my HS), and part of Conservation Advisory Board (CAB) to plan CONEX. You and other members discuss ideas, spread the word via posters and social media, and volunteer to facilitate information to the public during CONEX. Imagine you’re 50, a program manager for a Chi-land conservation organization like Sierra Club. You and I correspond via email, phone, and in-person, collaborating to create events, partnerships, and awareness campaigns. At any age, you can be involved by volunteering, visiting our table at events, donating, or attending CONEX.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

In many environmental fields, there exists an infrastructure of youth involvement. However, most all native habitat/conservation organizations in my region are run by adults and retirees, and ecology has much less youth engagement than other STEM fields. Not only is Homes4Monarchs the only youth-led, monarch/Midwest-focused nonprofit in the nation, but we also prioritize action and awareness equally. Unlike other organizations, Homes4Monarchs not only creates events to raise awareness, we also empower youth specifically to put newfound awareness in action by planting native-plant seed-packets.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

In 3 years, H4M created/distributed 20,700 milkweed packets, 20,000 seedballs, and 1 million seeds. We participated in ~100 events, helping organize ~50%. We collaborated with 1,000+ volunteers, and I personally dedicated 1,500+ hours. We collaborated with hundreds of organizations, raised $2,000+, and interacted with 30,000+ people. Yet, H4M makes the greatest difference with the community interactions we catalyze. We are rooted to their discoveries, conversations, and decisions. No seed will grow milkweed in gardens if I did not attach an explanation to the perpetual “Why?” in one’s mind. No event will raise awareness about native pollinators if I did not spark an epiphany in my audience that connect an orange bug to their children’s future. No person I talk to will restore the prairie if I did not shake their hand, say their name, and treat them not as the problem, but the solution

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

H4M’s current goal is creating 20,000+ milkweed packets and distributing them more evenly across across Chi-land. To achieve this, we will partner with new organizations like Communities in Schools Chicago, the Field Museum (where I was recently selected to be part of the Youth Council), and Chicago Muslims Green Team, and are creating a milkweed seed separator. In winter, we are holding CONEX 2020, featuring a rented replica T-rex skull. In winter/spring/summer 2020, H4M will focus on seedballs and GEFER (Gardens for Education, Food, & Environmental Restoration). H4M will partner with Chi-land communities to build pollinator/produce gardens with educational curriculum. Winning T-Mobile’s $10,000 award allows H4M to subsidize 20-30 GEFERs.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Brand Development

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Sales
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • Self-identify race, ethnicity, or origin: (5)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Other

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

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Team (5)

Chander's profile
Chander Payne

Role added on team:

"I collaborated with Chander this summer to find ways to incorporate my elements of native plant conservation into Urban BEET and to incorporate his elements of restorative agriculture into Homes4Monarchs' mission. It was his work with Urban BEET that helped inspire Homes4Monarchs' newest endeavor, the GEFER. Altogether, Chander is an awesome, sociable, and passionate individual who shares my love for gardening and conservation."

Monica's profile
Monica Para

Role added on team:

"Monica and I collaborated this past year in her work with GenZCoders and Explore Engineering, and in my work with Homes4Monarchs, CONEX, and the development of the GEFER idea. We both used to go to the same high school. Now that she is in college, we still communicate regularly to keep up-to-date on each other's initiatives, successes, and opportunities for growth. Altogether, Monica is a kind, compassionate, and driven individual who is and will continue to do great things!"

Salma's profile
Salma Kamni

Role added on team:

"Salma and I collaborated this past year in her work with GenZCoders and Explore Engineering, and in my work with Homes4Monarchs and CONEX. Salma and I both go to the same high school, and we regularly to keep up-to-date on each other's initiatives, successes, and opportunities for growth. Like Monica, Salma is a friendly, persistent, and supportive individual who is and will continue to do great things!"

Adithi's profile
Adithi R

Role added on team:

"I collaborated with Adithi this summer to find ways to incorporate my methods of native plant conservation into her mission and to incorporate her methods of pollinator curriculum and youth engagement into Homes4Monarchs' mission. Altogether, Adithi is a funny, friendly, and passionate individual who shares my love for gardening and pollinator conservation."

The Monarch Master's profile


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dominique Hebert Bordelon

This would work good in conjunction with our boat excursion to resurrect the cypress swamps. A butterfly release would go hand in hand with our approach!

Photo of The Monarch Master Gordan

Hi Brooke,
Thank you for the comment! I definitely agree!
There are many milkweed species native to the Southern U.S. and I think an integration of these native pollinator plants with the cypress swamp awareness could help more people see the value that these ecosystems have to your area!

Photo of Adithi R

Peter! It's great to see how you've grown the initiative! I'm excited to see/work with you on your future plans for the GEFERs!

Photo of Salma Kamni

Monarch Master-- I love the work you are doing! I'm excited to see how it will grow and flourish!