With a focus on young people from communities with the highest concentration of environmental burdens, our Community Environmental College (CEC) is cultivating a new generation of leaders in Rhode Island.
What is CEC?
CEC is an 8 week summer program and leadership development institute that fosters critical environmental thinking skills with teenagers (age 13-17) in Rhode Island. In an interactive and transformative summer learning environment, students learn about environmental issues that impact them directly including toxicants, air pollution, waste, food systems, climate change, and more. Students also learn about social inequalities (based on race, class, gender, etc.) that are connected to environmental injustice and explore ways to take leadership and address these problems.
CEC revolves around four main goals:
- Enable teenage youth to build the knowledge, skills, and personal commitment necessary for effectively improving environmental conditions in the areas disproportionately affected by environmental concerns
- Prepare students from predominantly low-income, racially/ethnically diverse communities to grow their leadership capacity through hands-on experience with environmental education and program coordination, creating a new generation of environmental leaders while increasing the capacity of their communities to understand, mitigate, and adapt to climate change
- Develop interest among a diverse group of students in pursuing careers in the environmental sector
- Provide an effective, refined curricula and set of best practices for successfully engaging student leaders in environmental change efforts, while improving the sector’s environmental education methods
Thanks to generous donors, the program is free to all participants, who also receive a small stipend along with their diploma upon graduation. Students are provided with a healthy lunch during each day of the program and ride the EcoBus to several environmental education field trips throughout the summer.
In its seven years of operation, CEC integrates youth leadership in the structure and fabric of the program and has created a network of dedicated young people who are deeply invested in the program. A high rate of graduates from the program return to work with the new students each summer in a leadership capacity. For example, many former CEC participants return as “graduate students” who receive professional development training, get involved in EJLRI’s community projects, and are placed in internships with community partners. CEC graduates are also hired and trained as Teaching Assistants (TAs), and some are even employed as full-fledged teachers.
CEC in 2014
The CEC had a wonderful sixth year! 23 students participated in three core courses (Food Justice, Environmental Justice, and Revolution 101) and gave engaging, informed final presentations at graduation. Check out the facts and figures below (2015 information coming soon)!
Average gain in knowledge for:
Environmental Justice: 56% increase
Food Justice: 75% increase
Revolution 101: 52% increase
“Being able to participate in the CEC last summer was a very positive and eye-opening experience. It was a great way to spend my summer. I was able to learn a multitude of things pertaining to social issues in America and how we, as the next generation, have the power to make positive changes to the current system.” – Sebastian Cardenas, CEC 2014 Student
For more information about CEC, contact Jesus Holguin, our Youth Leadership Director, at [email protected].