Tilling the common ground between high school students and green professionals

April 06, 2018

To help Common Ground (http://commongroundct.org/), an environmental-based high school, achieve its vision of "Planting Seeds. Growing Leaders. Cultivating Community," we're setting up a speed-dating style session of students and CT GBC green professionals.

Our goals: (a) inspire students to green careers, (b) inspire green building professionals about the high school students, (c) set up some internships or jobs, (e) build social capital.


Students attended


Staff attended


Additional Volunteers attended


Students will be impacted this year

Intended impact of project

Reduced environmental impact
Increased environmental & sustainability literacy

Impact of project

Improved environmental & sustainability literacy
Career planning

More impact of project

Inspired by a local arts organization that paired sustainability leaders with artists in an invigorating speed-networking event (which was itself inspired by VC founder-investor speed dating), a USGBC staffer and the Connecticut GBC chapter, paired up for some sustainability professional - high school student speed-networking at Common Ground, an environmental high school, urban farm, and environmental education center in New Haven, CT.

We reached out to the Connecticut sustainability community to help us support Common Ground’s vision, captured in their tagline: “Planting Seeds. Growing Leaders. Cultivating Community.” The challenge for us to was to see how we could connect with high school students, hear their aspirations, and be a resource and inspiration for them.

On a snowy (!!) late April afternoon, twelve sustainability professionals gathered with sixteen Common Ground students in its new solar and geothermal building - seeking LEED Platinum certification - to speed-network for in small groups, switching up groups every 10 minutes.

The professionals included a surveyor, electrical engineer, environmental educator, solar installer, urban foresters, coastal resiliency expert, and a state legislator turned environmental leader by the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy on his town.

“The opportunity to share and help guide the next generation on sustainability is a true privilege,” commented Adam Whelchel, Director of Science at The Nature Conservancy/CT.

The students were juniors and seniors with interests ranging from mechanical engineering to veterinarian, accounting, art, graphic design, computer/IT/technology, and more.

After about an hour of our small groups, we gathered around a long table and share lunch of mac and cheese, Panini, and salads from a local Italian deli.

Student Ihsan Abdussabur channeled the passion of the students in his lunchtime comments: "In learning about all of the problems we face, I have dedicated my life to changing the world, and it's great to see that other people are doing this work as well"

The sustainability professionals in the room remembered fondly the adults who inspired us in high school and were happy to share stories about how clueless and unfocused we were in high school. As the buzzer range for the next period, the kids ended our session with a couple of really bad jokes.

We headed out into the sunny (!!) afternoon thinking about the legacy of buildings and people we were creating, and thinking about how could do this even better next year.