At Common Ground, everyone leads. We support and encourage students’ growth as environmental and social justice leaders just as we support and encourage their academic success.
POWER: What it Means
Common Ground pushes every student to step up as a POWERful leader.
- Pride: Confidence. Integrity. Professionalism. Advocacy
- Ownership: Initiative. Responsibility.
- Wonder: Inquiry. Vision. Problem-solving. Adaptability
- Effort: Planning. Decision-making. Action. Perseverance.
- Respect: Communication. Empathy. Interconnectedness. Teamwork.
The Common Ground community has lived by this POWER creed since 2008. We recognize students who demonstrate leadership at POWER assemblies, and encourage every student to ask themselves what POWER means to them.
Taking Leadership Seriously: Standards, E-Portfolios & Surveys
- Our teachers have developed school-wide leadership standards, and we incorporate these standards into the plans for every Common Ground class — just like we use academic standards to guide instruction.
- In order to graduate, each student has to create an electronic portfolio that demonstrates their leadership growth, in and outside the curriculum. Senior year, they defend their portfolios before a panel of students, teachers, family, and community members.
- Each year, students complete a leadership survey that helps us figure out whether we are living up to our vision that everyone leads.
Every Class is Leadership Class
Academic classes are filled with leadership opportunities. For instance:
- In AP Calculus, students demonstrate effort and grit by applying problem-solving skills to increasingly complex problems.
- In Ecologia — a team taught Spanish and Biology class — students practice respect and conversational Spanish by gardening and cooking in small student-led teams.
In Action: Environmental Justice
For years, Common Ground has offered a team-taught class called Environmental Justice — focusing on why environmental challenges tend to be concentrated in low-income neighborhoods, cities, and communities of color. This past year, students put their learning into action, helping the Community Alliance for Research and Engagement at Yale to launch a new healthy corner store. Read an article.
Students’ leadership work culminates in capstone Senior Projects, in which teams of students take on a social or environmental justice issue facing the New Haven community. Students have produced documentary films, strengthened supports for English Language Learners and newcomers to the United States, helped launch New Haven’s mobile farm market, and planted gardens and trees in memory of victims of gun violence, for instance.
Green Jobs Corps
Each year, 80+ students take on paid leadership and career development opportunities through Common Ground’s Green Jobs Corps. They take part in work opportunities on and off of Common Ground’s site — running environmental education programs, planting trees, helping to manage farmer’s markets, improving water quality, creating school gardens and schoolyard habitats, and maintaining Common Ground’s site. They also take part in workshops and field trips that build their leadership skills and help them map out their career paths beyond high school. Learn more.
Our students give back through required community service. Each student must complete 15 hours of service before moving to the next grade level – though many go far beyond this minimum. For instance:
- A school-wide community service day alone nets over 400 hours of service.
- Participants in monthly trips to the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen prepare and serve food.
- Student groups organize service opportunities ranging from contests to help stop global warming to fundraising drives to combat measles in Africa.
As in our academic classes, Common Ground challenges students to look at every situation as an opportunity to lead. For instance, our students:
- Planted more than 100 street trees.
- Conducted research in the Dominican Republic.
- Monitored water quality in the West River.
- Helped to design Common Ground’s new school building, opening its doors in 2014.
- Run small businesses using produce from our farm.
- Help students solve problems through peer mediation and mentoring.