Talia Schmitt and Mashaba Rashid, Eco-Schools Leadership Initiative
In Virginia, two young women understand the importance of making a real investment in environmental education and outdoor learning. Eco-Schools Leadership Initiative(ESLI), founded by Talia Schmitt and Mashaba Rashid, connects high school and college students to elementary school aged children to educate them on a range of environmental topics. The program engages students to work together to help address current challenges by setting up a platform where youth of all ages work to directly identify and solve environmental issues facing their communities.
The youngsters who participate in the ESLI program are not your typical “green” crew who have been pre-exposed to environmental education. These students come from diverse backgrounds, often live in marginalized areas, and attend their school’s aftercare program because their parents are unable to pick them up. By partnering elementary school students with high school and college mentors, the program skillfully weaves the education of very young children with the creation of an emerging cohort of environmental educators.
Focusing on putting the fun into environmental education, and committed to practical activities with tangible outcomes, ESLI currently has 6 chapters, and there are an estimated 50 college and high school age students who have developed public speaking and leadership skills as ESLI educators, and over 160 elementary-aged students who have participated.
Mashaba and Talia are determined to introduce the program to more schools, but have been consistently challenged by the lack of funding and available resources to do the work. After meeting Youth Environmental Grantmaking Team Member Charles Orgbon at one of his organization’s conferences, their dedication and commitment has been recognized and they have received a $1,000 flow fund grant to be able to expand ESLI to impact more high school and college students.