Earlier this summer, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the graduation of 22 Green City Force AmeriCorps members in New York City. Green City Force recruits young adults, ages 18-24, who are currently unemployed or underemployed high school graduates or GED-holders from low-income neighborhoods.
This innovative, six-month program tackles education, employment and environmental challenges all at once by combining national service and training related to the clean energy economy and sustainability.
Green City Force members spend four days a week as an urban environmental service force, painting roofs as part of the NYC CoolRoofs campaign, performing energy audits in low-income homes and engaging in urban agriculture and other green activities.
In addition to helping improve the community, the program helps these young adults improve themselves. As part of their service, corps members attend “Green City Academy,” which provides academic and technical training, and helps them gain certification for entry-level work in energy efficiency and urban agriculture. Corps members also significantly increase their reading and math skills as a result of their classes at the Academy.
The success of Green City Force is clear. In the first two years of the program, more than 80 percent of the graduates were fully employed, in college or taking advanced training courses.
One graduate, Ty'Keisha Youmans, 20, received special recognition at the ceremony because of her work to create a Resident Green Committee in New York City's Smith Houses Development, and now serves as the Committee's Outreach Coordinator. Ty'Keisha shared what this program meant to her:
“Three words come to mind when I think of Green City Force: Change. Growth. Empowerment. Who I was six months ago is not who I am today. Green City Force has helped me CHANGE how I treat my planet, how I treat others and how I view myself. Green City Force has helped me GROW not only professionally or academically, but as a person. Green City Force has given me the POWER to make a difference in my neighborhood, to fight for change, and what I believe in.”
You can see Green City Force corps members in action and hear about their experience here.
In just six months in the program, these young people have shifted the odds of success in their favor by gaining a great set of skills that can take them on to higher education, a new or better job, or a lifelong career. And in the process, they have made New York City a healthier, greener place.
That is national service at its best.
Asim Mishra currently serves as the Chief of Staff at the Corporation for National and Community Service. He previously served as an AmeriCorps member at Public Allies Chicago.
Green City Force's mission is to break the cycle of poverty, preparing urban young adults to succeed in their chosen careers by engaging them in service, training and work experiences related to the clean energy economy. In doing so, GCF encourages them to lead socially and environmentally responsible lives. Green City Force partners with the New York City Civic Corps, which is sponsored in part by the New York State Office of National and Community Service, New Yorkers Volunteer.