Green Works in Kansas City offers an after-school environmental educational program (ECOS) for urban high school students. The summer after completing ECOS, we place our older students in paid summer internships with environmental businesses and organizations that provide them with real job skills, experience and contacts. Students who wish to stay involved after their first year enroll in our alumni group, where they work on service projects in their community and share what they have learned with their friends and neighbors.

Given the lower representation of women in STEM fields, our staff works extra hard to make sure the young women in our program are encouraged and supported. This year we’re excited to share a couple of the great success stories we had with our female students.

aleecia-algae-crown

Aleecia is one of our shining stars. She started out as a very quiet but personable student, who always sat by her louder friend and followed her lead. Halfway through the school year, Aleecia’s friend stopped attending ECOS, but Aleecia kept coming each day and started to become more and more outspoken during our activities. By February, we knew we could always count on Aleecia to be the first to volunteer to assist with any demonstrations, to ask lots of questions, and to have near-perfect attendance.

The most remarkable thing about Aleecia is the constant smile she has on her face. She is always open to trying her best or learning something new, regardless of the task or topic. Her favorite activity in class this year was the demonstrations that illustrated how weather events form. She particularly enjoyed lighting a tea bag on fire to observe it fly through the air as an example of how temperature affects wind currents. This summer, Aleecia will be working at a high-end used clothing store in town learning how a small business contributes to our economy by keeping clothing re-circulating.

Shay is another great success story. When she began attending the ECOS class, she would often come in late with a good friend of hers, sit in a back chair, and begin talking. During the first few classes, Shay would roll her eyes when asked to do some writing. Yet, over the course of the school year, Shay has become a model student. She is always on time – even when her friend is late – and she keeps the other students around her on task with her incredible focus on learning.

shay-holding-thermometer

Shay loves activities that involve building models, and this year she really enjoyed a competition in which she and her classmates attempted to construct the most efficient water wheels they could using recycled plastic and cardboard. Shay has recently indicated that the environmental problems she cares about most are those that affect the wellbeing of animals. Our staff is working to place Shay at a summer internship at the Lakeside Nature Center, where she will help care for abandoned and injured wildlife.

Our staff is privileged to see our young women’s imagination and curiosity about environmental topics grow and watch them excel during the school year. And we are excited to see how all our young women learn and grow during their summer internships!

You can support Green Works in Kansas City through We-Care.com at http://greenworkskc.we-care.com/getstarted

Kate Corwin is an entrepreneur, educator, economist and environmental activist. In 2007, following successful careers as an IT engineer and then as an entrepreneur, Kate founded the nonprofit Green Works in Kansas City. Green Works’ focus on environmental education and workforce development combines Kate’s passion for the environment and urban youth with her entrepreneurial skills and educational background. Kate is an active community member, serving by mayoral appointment on commissions and committees dealing with zoning, historic preservation and climate sustainability. She is a past president of her neighborhood association and currently serves on the board of MainCor, and as chair of the 43rd and Main TIF Advisory Board, overseeing $3M in housing investments. Kate is a recipient of an Environmental Excellence Award from Bridging the Gap and was named Eco Activist of the Year for 2009 by The Pitch. Kate is a member of Kansas City Tomorrow and International Women’s Forum and holds undergraduate degrees in IT and Finance and an MA in Economics. Kate blogs about community building, the environment and economics at www.43rdplace.wordpress.com.