Seeking Nominees – 9th Annual Environmental Leader in Residence

Common Ground High School, Urban Farm, and Environmental Education Center are seeking nominations for our 9th Annual Environmental Leader in Residence. 

Leah Penniman, Common Ground’s 2016 Environmental Leader in Residence, is the co-founder of Soul Fire Farm, and author of Farming While Black.

For 2022, we are seeking nominees from both our local community and throughout the United States. The Environmental Leader in Residence will spend the equivalent of a week (30-35 hours of structured experiences, plus 5-10 hours of planning with Common Ground team members) engaging with the Common Ground community, starting in April 2022 and continuing through December 2022. The exact schedule of the residency will be determined based on the leader’s availability and Common Ground’s schedule (e.g., two 1-3 day intensives in Spring and Fall 2022, weekly 1-hour workshops with students and staff, etc.). We hope and anticipate that most experiences can be in person, pending COVID-19 conditions. 

To support the residency, Common Ground can offer a $3,500 honorarium, and reimbursement for travel and incidental expenses connected to the residency.

The deadline for nominations is Wednesday, February 23, 2022. Below you will find information about previous Leaders, along with details about the residency. After exploring the details below please nominate a leader. Self-nominations are welcomed.

Past leaders in residence have included:

Hiram Rivera, our 2017 Leader in Residence, helped students organize around improving Common Ground’s curriculum and partnered with members of our community to create a mural.

We are explicitly committed to building a new, more racially and culturally inclusive generation of environmental leaders, and particularly value applications from people of color leaders. We are also interested in considering nominees who are young people, and who are members of LGBTQ+ communities.

We invite nominations of powerful environmental leaders, who have:

  • Strong commitment to and background in social justice, racial justice, equity, and inclusiveness work — and who can make the connections between this work and environmental issues.
  • Experience in environmental justice, environmental education, outdoor education, or related fields, with a particular focus on work in multi-racial and urban settings.
  • Youth leadership, youth development, education, and facilitation background, expertise, and commitment.
  • Charismatic, positive, warm presence — able to make connections and build community with young people and adults.
  • Honesty, passion, courage, risk-taking, a powerful voice.
  • The ability to build community, communication, and understanding among young people, teachers, farm staff, environmental educators, and other Common Ground staff — and among members of the Common Ground community and the families and individuals who make up the larger New Haven community. 
  • Something unique to contribute, which can help shape the residency and engage the community: work as an artist, a wellness/healing practice, etc.
  • A set of experiences that are inspiring and relatable for young people and adults, and a willingness to share those experiences.

At Common Ground, we define the environment and environmental leadership broadly — not just trees, air, land, wild animals, and water, but people and the human environment as well.

The Leader in Residence’s Role

During their residency, the Environmental Leader in Residence will:

  • Participate in life at Common Ground: attend school-wide events, join classes, visit and join in the work of our urban farm, and engage in community programs.
  • Co-design and lead at least one workshop or professional development opportunity for Common Ground staff.
  • Be the featured speaker at a school-wide POWER assembly at Common Ground High School.
  • Design and facilitate learning experiences for small groups of students and staff: e.g., a recurring after-school program, a series of guest speaking opportunities in Common Ground’s core courses, an intentionally inclusive or identity-specific discussion group – determined based on the Leader in Residence’s interests and experiences and Common Ground’s needs.
  • Meet with small groups of students, board members, staff, community partners, and family members informally to share experiences and offer advice — including over meals. 
  • Provide input and advice on key Common Ground change efforts and priorities, based on the expertise of the leader in residence — including community-building and culture, efforts to live into our environmental justice mission, and building healthy, authentic relationships with our neighbors in New Haven.
  • Connect with, inspire, challenge, support, and learn with members of our community in a variety of ways.
  • Meet informally or formally with Common Ground’s environmental education staff, who run our children’s and community programs.
  • Engage with members from the broader New Haven community and/or peer schools and organizations through an event that the environmental leader in residence helps to define.
  • Create a ripple effect and impact that goes well beyond the residency — leaving something lasting behind in our community (e.g., a work of art, an installation on our campus, a change in Common Ground’s culture or policies)
  • Write a reflection — blog post, letter to Common Ground, or video — providing feedback and observations on the experience of being an environmental leader in residence.

The plan for the residency is co-created by the leader and a team of staff and students, once the leader is selected. The leader in residence should anticipate joining in at least 5-6 planning conversations with members of Common Ground’s team between their selection in March 2022 and the end of the residency. 

Selection Process

Nominations will be reviewed by a team of staff and students, who will narrow down nominees, conduct phone or virtual interviews of the top 2-3 candidates (planned for the weeks of March 10-24th), and create a ballot of candidates on which all Common Ground students and staff will vote.

Nominate a leader >>


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