“Green City Force saved my life.”
Before she joined the corps, Marie* was 20-year old with a high school diploma but no prospects, forced to be a stripper to make ends meet. She heard about Green City Force (GCF), an intensive six-month training program that gives 18-to-24-year-old high school graduates from New York City public housing the academic and professional preparation they need for careers in sustainability.
Four months later, Marie is glowing with her accomplishments as a Corps Member and plans to start her own business when she graduates this August. “All of us, coming from NYC public housing, are really up against the odds,” she says. “But being in Green City Force is like we’re breaking the barrier. Every day we do things we’ve never done before. We’re studying our academics, we’re teaching residents about saving energy, and we’re learning to grow food. Without Green City Force, none of this could have happened. I wouldn’t even be here.”
Another Corps Member, Jason, told me plainly: “If it hadn’t been for Green City Force, I would be in the streets, robbing people. Literally. Green City Force changed my life. They brightened my spirit; they healed a lot of wounds that people couldn’t see.” At first, in the Orientation sessions, he was distant and hesitant to dive in. It’s a rigorous schedule: up by five or six in the morning to start service in the field, evening tutoring sessions, technical training at Friday Green City Academy. A points-based evaluation system reinforces the high standards GCF sets for Corps Members. “But as I went on I learned that I can do it, and that I can trust people. I saw that the streets aren’t where all the smarts are. It’s more about helping people and building a foundation for a better future.”
Jason is now a summer 2013 GCF Corps Member. “It’s just amazing. Today when I go into apartments to help people do energy conservation, I brighten everybody’s day. I make little jokes, make them understand that we’re not there for anything but positive reasons. To lift people’s spirits is awesome. To give them more hope and let them see that the world is not totally disastrous, that we really can make big changes.”
Wesley is a GCF graduate and young father showing other young people from New York City Housing Authority that they can have a future. He still remembers his surprise discovering what GCF made possible: “I went to the first information session, and I just loved everything they were talking about: solar panels, saving money on people’s energy bills, protecting the environment. I did everything I had to do to get into that program. I especially like that it’s an AmeriCorps program and we’re giving services to the community. Being able to help people in low-income circumstances means a lot to me.”
After Wesley graduated from the Corps, GCF arranged a job interview with the Community Environmental Center. They hired him. He now teaches adults and groups of children about saving and sustaining energy at Eco House, an environmental education trailer that travels around NYC. “Pretty much everything I do, when I lead tours of Eco House and show people about energy savings, I was taught at Green City Force. Eventually I want to go into youth development with teenagers and young adults. The Eco House is a great stepping stone to the career I would like to follow. I could not have done this without Green City Force.”
The purpose of Green City Force is clear: to ensure that Marie, Jason, Wesley, and hundreds of other hopeful young New Yorkers can develop their confidence and competence to live their full potential.
Since our founding in 2009, GCF has graduated more than 100 Corps Members, nearly 80% of whom have successfully entered careers or college. By 2014, we will graduate over 100 Corps Members a year. We are growing at this fast pace because in every public housing development in New York City there are thousands of young people who, like Marie, Jason, and Wesley, will not give up on themselves if we don’t give up on them.
Already, GCF Corps Members have applied more than one million square feet of “cool roof” public housing rooftops that cut energy usage by nearly 20%; performed more than 8,000 home energy audits that save residents nearly $1 million a year; built a community farm and a sustainable park; and run a “Love Where You Live” friendly competition in energy savings among public housing developments that has cut energy costs by 11 percent. And we’re still growing.
That is why we need your support. Donate today to help us to raise $100,000 by July 31, and our Board of Directors will match your gift, dollar for dollar as part of the goal. The new recruits are ready for their summer training; help us bring on our biggest cohort ever.
Please help tomorrow’s Green City Force Corps Members create their own successful life stories – for themselves and for New York. Because they have the will. And you have the way.
Founder and Executive Director
P.S. Click here for more information on our end of the year appeal. Visit our website to donate today.
* The name of this individual was changed for privacy reasons.