GCF honored by Environmental Advocates of New York

November 10, 2014  |   Posted by :   |   Blog   |   Comments Off on GCF honored by Environmental Advocates of New York»

On November 6th, Green City Force was one of three 2014 Advocate Award recipients honored by Environmental Advocates of New York at their annual dinner. GCF Founder & Executive Director Lisbeth Shepherd and GCF Cohort 8 graduate Miguel Rodriguez accepted the award on behalf of Green City Force, and a group of board members, staff, partners and supporters joined in the celebration.

2014 Advocate Award recipients: Miguel Rodriguez and Lisbeth Shepherd of Green City Force (middle), journalist Andrew Revkin (left) and Stuart Bernstein of Goldman Sachs (right)

Environmental Advocates of New York has been working for over 45 years to protect the shared environment of New York. They are dedicated to making New York a model for other states in confronting the challenges presented by climate change. The 2014 Advocate Awards celebrated the work of leaders confronting climate change. GCF was selected to receive this award based on our strong track record of addressing both youth unemployment and climate action goals in New York City.

Miguel Rodriguez delivered a moving acceptance speech that described the transformational impact that GCF has had on his life and career, as well as the sincere passion for environmental stewardship and accountability that GCF helped foster in him.

Miguel was a GCF Corps Member from February to July 2014. While a Corps Member, he demonstrated great dedication to service and a solid work ethic. He completed over 1200 service hours with GCF (note that the amount require for graduation is 900 hours) and earned GCF’s award for the most service hours completed in his corps.

You can watch a video of Miguel’s speech from the Environmental Advocates dinner, or read his full speech below:

“Greetings everyone. I am honored to be here representing my fellow alumni and join Lisbeth in accepting this award.

GCF graduate Miguel Rodriguez delivers his speech at the Advocate Awards on November 6, 2014.

GCF graduate Miguel Rodriguez delivers his speech at the Advocate Awards on November 6, 2014.

I grew up in the Lower East Side by FDR Drive, in Lillian Wald Houses – what you might know as “the projects” – raised by my mother. Not many success stories are expected from my neighborhood of 4500 people living within 10 buildings. At the same time, there are young people there with potential who haven’t been brought to light. And there is a sense of community – when Hurricane Sandy paralyzed our neighborhood, people helped each other out despite the devastation and weeks without power.

At the time Sandy hit, I was stuck in a trance unsure of what my next steps were to be. I had graduated from high school, but things went downhill. Dropped out of college, and fired from my retail job, I was downtrodden. My time was being wasted doing nothing, on the couch or galavanting out in the streets. Unemployment checks came and went. I was putting forth no real contribution for my family or towards humanity.  I knew that if I didn’t find stable, meaningful work or find a way back to college, crime might be the only resort for fast money. My ideologies, no matter how morally pure, were conflicted. My spirit was heavily burdened.

I learned of Green City Force from an employment coordinator in my neighborhood.  I had seen the Green City Force AmeriCorps Members at work in my neighborhood and witnessed the difference they made right outside my doorstep. I understood it meant becoming a public servant to the needs of the city and those who need help. I was ready for the challenge.

Graduating was not easy. But Green City Force grasped my desire to get ahead and make a difference, gave me college-level academic preparation and hands-on experience in building a professional work ethic. I learned building science and earned a national certification called GPro. Green City Force made me see that I am a part of the solution. That changed my life.

Miguel and Lisbeth accept the Advocate Award on behalf of Green City Force.

Miguel and Lisbeth accept the Advocate Award on behalf of Green City Force.

Through GCF, and their training partner GRID Alternatives, I found my passion: renewable energy. Today, I stand before you as a Solar PV Installer. I have a full-time job putting solar panels on rooftops with a company called OnForce Solar. My life has gone from being a waste of potential into a game changer for today’s environmental issues.  I’m a provider for my family that makes my mother proud.

There are so many opportunities in this field. One thing I am interested in exploring is environmental politics.  Maybe someday I will be asking for your vote!

I believe that in these tough times we need more pioneers and advocates for a new green revolution. Through the midst of our concerns of a climate crisis, education and continuous effort is the revolution. Working together, we can achieve a clean energy future in which everyone has a part and everyone can prosper. Thank you!”

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