I was 20 years old when I received my first Pollination Project (TPP) grant. As a sophomore in college, I had recently applied to the Clinton Global Initiative Conference and submitted a commitment to action for Get Them to the Green. The project? A week-long summer camp to engage young people in Chicago with topics related to environmental science, climate change, and sustainability. My vision was grand; we’d debate the causes behind climate change, visit urban gardens in Chicago and hear from various organizations in the city working on addressing environmental issues. As I wrote the proposal, I’d never thought it would be something I was going to actually do… just, a great idea that would sit within a list of other great ideas I had, but would never actually actualize.
After that conference, I’d pitched my idea to Cornell and received initial funding for the summer camp. The funding could support the week-long camp, but it wouldn’t be nearly enough to really fund what I had envisioned for Get Them to the Green’s first summer camp. I was then introduced to The Pollination Project by Charles, a previous NAAEE 30 Under 30 Awardee and a changemaker leading an incredible youth/environment engagement non-profit. I applied, and a few months later, heard back from TPP with incredible news that I’d be receiving $1,000 toward the launch of G2G’s first summer camp. That summer, Get Them to the Green engaged with 14 students through the five-day program on campus at the University of Chicago through a partnership with the University of Chicago Collegiate Scholars Program. Each day for the camp had various themes: Intro to Environmental Science, Food & Agriculture, Environmental Justice, Oceans & Lakes, and Sustainability. Get Them to the Green took two field trips with the students, visiting a community garden and the Method Soapbox Factory. We incorporated a variety of guests into our curriculum to engage students on environmental-related activities, including The Plant Chicago, Hyde Park Art Center, Greenheart Travel, and The Chicago Youth Alliance on Climate Change (CYACA). The final piece of the camp included a project, in which students got to choose from a variety of environmental related issues, such as Air Pollution, Food Desserts, or Water Quality.
The funding I received as a sophomore in college has allowed me to grow ideas related to youth and the environment in ways I’ve never imagined. Since then, I’ve worked to continue carrying out the mission of fostering a love for the environment amongst youth in Chicago. 2 years ago, I partnered with my former elementary school and Gardeneers, a non-profit in Chicago that launches school gardens, to grow to life the Vanderpoel School Garden. In addition to the garden project, I’ve received funds to launch HEAL, a year-long program that will incorporate three central themes, health, activism, and education, to provide opportunities to empower 10-20 young students in Chicago. The basis of the HEAL program, which refers to the healing of the mind, body, and soul, stem from the quote by movement activist and extraordinaire, Grace Lee Boggs: “Transform yourself to transform the world.” This project acts in nature of helping youth transform themselves so that can be stronger change agents within their respective communities.
I say all of this to conclude that, as a young person, who cares about educating and empowering other young people, the support from the Pollination Project has allowed me to grow an idea, a seed, that I have held for so long within myself. As a granter now, on the other spectrum of the fundraising project, I see recognize and embrace power I have in supporting other people’s seed idea, so that their ideas to can grow, flourish, and make waves within communities across the world. From this experience as a member of the Youth Leadership Hub, I hope to continue investing in and supporting other ideas in my hometown of Chicago, because seeds only grow, once you’ve given them enough water and sunshine. The Pollination Project has been, for me, the water and sunshine to grow my organization into the powerhouse I dream it will someday become.