Green Jobs Program Engages and Prepares Students at Common Ground

Green Jobs Program Engages and Prepares Students at Common Ground


Alfia and Stephen help to operate New Haven's Mobile Farm Market, a joint project of Common Ground and CitySeed. Photo Credit: Common Ground

Common Ground High School reaches beyond the classroom to educate the next generation of environmental leaders. Through its Green Jobs Program, students are building their resumes and gaining real-world experience in paid positions working on farms, teaching younger children at afterschool programs and camps, planting habitats, and restoring natural areas.

“For most of these kids, it’s their first paid job,” says Common Ground Director of Impact & Engagement Joel Tolman. “We want them to have transferable skills. It’s an awesome opportunity for our young people to do a lot of good out in the community while also earning money for their families and themselves.”

The year-round youth employment program matches students with jobs at one of several partner organizations or on the Common Ground campus. During summer, students work about 25 hours a week. The hours drop to 5-10 hours a week during the schoolyear so as not to interfere with academic work. While the program is open to all students, seniors and juniors are given priority.

Students might work for City Seed, which runs the farmers markets in New Haven, or plant trees with Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies’ Urban Resources Initiative (URI). Some students maintain schoolyard habitats throughout the city with Audubon Connecticut. This summer, a few students are working on restoration projects in Maine and Vermont with the Nature Conservancy.

 Jobs are also available at the school’s kitchen, the Kids Unplugged afterschool program and its urban farm, which annually produces 8000 pounds of food.

“Our farm wouldn’t be able to run without the help of the students, says Tolman.

As students gain more experience, they are offered more responsibility in leading and managing small groups.

As a testament to the impact of the Green Jobs Program, about half of the seniors include their work experience in the portfolios that they create and defend as part of their graduation requirements.

Funding for the jobs program comes from a variety of sources, including the Workforce Alliance, Environmental Protection Agency, and family and corporate foundations. The Watershed Fund, a donor advised fund at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven also provides support for Green Jobs.

In addition to its High School, Common Ground runs an environmental education center and urban farm as part of its larger mission to cultivate habits of healthy living and sustainable environmental practice within a diverse community of children, young people, adults, and families.

For more information about Common Ground,  visit its profile on giveGreater.org®.

Did you Know?

When Common Ground High School opened in 1997 it was the first environmental public charter school in the country. There are now more than 300 nationwide.

This story is part of the Inspiration Monday story series produced by The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven.

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