Juniors and seniors at New Roots Charter School in Ithaca piloted Roots of Success, the city’s green workforce development program, this spring. Participating students will receive Environmental Literacy certification from the U.S. Department of Labor, which, according to the school, “will be recognized by local employers benefitting from the city of Ithaca’s electrification initiative."
New Roots founder and Superintendent Tina Nilsen-Hodges said "Roots of Success" was created by Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes, professor of urban studies and planning at San Francisco State University.
“The curriculum is informed by Raquel’s decades of experience working with and teaching underserved populations and in-depth research with employers in 21 sectors of the green economy,” Nilsen-Hodges said in an email. “What the two organizations do have in common is that they were both founded in 2009, and both founders were finalists for a Best of Green Schools Award in 2021 for their organization’s contributions to the Green Schools movement!”
Michael Mazza, director of community engagement at New Roots, added that the City of Ithaca has brought on Pinderhughes as a paid consultant for a year to “support a successful launch of the program citywide.”
“Lisa Marshall, program director of HeatSmart Tompkins, has also been trained to teach New Roots students the Roots of Success curriculum,” he said in an email. “All is made possible through the generous funding support from the Park Foundation.”
As Nilsen-Hodges explained, Roots of Success is a response to the need for living-wage jobs and career pathways in poverty-stricken areas and meant as a way to promote sustainable development. “They do this by strengthening core academic skills, increasing people’s understanding of environmental problems and solutions, preparing them for jobs and career pathways in multiple sectors of the economy and to improve conditions in their communities,” she said. “Their focus is on student success, making learning relevant, building on prior experiences and connecting education to employment.”
The green economy is one of the fastest growing economic sectors, Nilsen-Hodges noted, providing workers, even in entry-level jobs, with “higher wages, better benefits and greater occupational mobility than entry-level jobs in other sectors.” The Roots of Success model is used by high schools, youth programs, colleges and job training programs throughout the country.