By Tom Gaudioso
Green Jobs Corps Coordinator
I am saving the numbers for the end of this article.
When youth-serving organizations report on what young people are involved in, we oftentimes lead our discussion with numbers. We reduce them and the work they do to statistics. Numbers oftentimes bring quantitative results to the forefront, and push the actual work that is happening to the back. Numbers are important, but the voices of those doing the work, in my opinion, are more important. (Don’t worry, more numbers are at the end, I promise).
What is Green Jobs Corps?
Common Ground High School’s Green Jobs Corps (GJC) is a program whose goal is to provide youth with a solid foundation for successful future employment and the skills necessary to advance in their careers.
Green Jobs Corps is offered to all Common Ground students. GJC members work in paid job placements during the fall and spring, and in the winter, take part in career development workshops that prepare them for the world of employment.
Job Placements from 2016-2017:
- CitySeed: Market Interns set up/broke down New Haven farmer’s markets and sold healthy, local food to patrons
- Solar Youth: Environmental Educators led children ages 4-8 in environmental stewardship work and were trained in nonviolent communication and mindfulness techniques
- In the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies’ Urban Resources Initiative (URI) program, GreenSkills Interns planted street trees in New Haven neighborhoods
- In the Common Ground Kids Unplugged after school program, Environmental Educators led children in hands-on, nature-based exploration activities
- Our Site, Farm, and Kitchen Crews stewarded Common Ground’s campus, caring for the plants, animals and physical site
- The Schoolyards Crew built and installed hexagonal garden beds in local K-8 schools
- The West River Stewards Crew tackled clean water-related issues facing this local waterway
What the students have to say:
That was the best part of Site Crew for me; being able to take a pile of wood, a pocket of nails, and various tools to create some benches in the bus stop. It was in Site Crew that I could just place everything where it needs to be, and see a complete product.
Prior to my experience with URI, taking on any environmental job seemed overwhelming. There are so many issues with our environment, from pollution, landfills, CO2 levels, plastic waste, etc, that I didn’t think one person’s effort could make a difference. However, after every tree we planted you could see difference.. The work of being an environmentalist suddenly didn’t seem so overwhelming. Although my work only lasted for 8 weeks, the trees will be there long after I’m gone. I now realize that a little bit of work goes a very long way and if each person puts in a small effort it collectively makes a big change.
I learned that taking ownership of your work and being a leader means going beyond what is expected of you. It’s…..thinking creatively and pushing yourself when things seem difficult. The experience made me a better person today because I know that I’m capable of keeping up with my work even when it seems overwhelming. I also learned not to set limits on what I can achieve.
The most useful or beneficial thing I learned from my job placements was how to communicate with new people without being nervous or shy.
I encouraged environmental stewardship in children younger than myself, ensuring that these younger generations will continue fighting for and respecting the environment.
Another component of the GJC program is the educational workshops. Students took part in workshops that exposed them to the skills and documents needed to navigate the world of employment.
Students wrote resumes and cover letters, mapped out their professional network, searched for jobs (and identified how to spot scams), learned about the basics of managing money, and discussed the importance of selling themselves to potential employers.
What the students have to say:
I learned how to manage credit, how to write a resume, and how to properly network so I can get better job opportunities
The GJC workshops was the highlight of the year, I especially enjoyed (and this might sound weird) coming in over the weekend for this interview preparation workshop that has helped me gained a better understand on the do’s and don’ts of job interviews
I had fun and learned at the same time….. Yayyyyyyy!
One of the most important outcomes of this program is having young people confidently talk about themselves: their skills, strengths, experiences, and what makes them uniquely qualified for a position. Common Ground’s Environmental Leadership Standards, which is basically a big list of transferable skills, are woven into the program.
Before a placement begins, supervisors identify skills from this list that they think are important for students to work on over the course of a job placement, and students do the same. This self-identification aspect allows students to have ownership of their professional and personal growth.
Reflecting on these skills also allows them to gain practice in HOW to talk about themselves in a coherent, confident way. At the end of the season, supervisors and students reflect on the placement, focusing specifically on these skills.
All students at Common Ground are required to create an e-portfolio. Each learner’s collection includes artifacts and writings about 5 experiences from their high school career in which they have demonstrated significant academic, professional or personal growth.
During senior year, students defend two of these five experiences. Many GJC students draw upon their GJC experience in their portfolios. These powerful reflections speak to the impact of this program in individual lives.
If you still need some numbers…
As promised, for you number people, here are some more stats from the 2016-17 school year in GJC:
# students who complete at least 1 job placement: 55
# job placements: 98 ( fall 48, spring 50)
% of seniors including a GJC experience in the e-portfolio: 55%
% of seniors selecting a GJC experience as a key point to defend in the e-portfolio: 45%
- Black: 31%
- Latino: 31%
- White: 29%
- Other (Asian, Mid-Eastern, mixed race): 9%
- Students who receive Special Education supports: 29%