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Rock to Rock Earth Day Ride, Spring 2014

“Stewardship means making sure everyone is safe and supported.” Rigo, Solar Youth Intern

Solar Youth provides opportunities for youth to develop a positive sense of self and a connection and commitment to others through programs that incorporate environmental exploration, leadership development, and community service. All Solar Youth programs follow the Kids Explore! Kids Teach! Kids Do! program model, in which youth investigate local ecology (Kids Explore!), design and perform service projects that address issues that affect the health of people and the natural environment (Kids Do!), and then teach what they have learned and accomplished to others (Kids Teach!). Solar Youth’s 2013-2014 school-year programs were offered to youth Stewards ages 4 to 13 at four sites around New Haven: Westville Manor, West Hills and Newhallville (our neighborhood sites); plus Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School (school-based site). Youth Educator Interns are hired and trained to lead programs, teaching curriculum and mentoring the younger participants. Interns are teenagers who attend New Haven Public Schools; many Interns were formerly Stewards with Solar Youth. Programs take place four days per week after school, plus full day trips on Saturdays, for 10 weeks in Fall and 12 weeks in Spring. To have a truly transformational impact on the lives of youth from New Haven's low income neighborhoods, Solar Youth created the "Cycle of Stewardship" model of youth development. An outcome of our last strategic plan implementation (2007-2013), Solar Youth's Cycle of Stewardship engages youth as young as four years old in environmental exploration and problem-solving. Over time, through a series of PROGRAMS, a PRESENCE in their communities, and support from our PARTNERS, Stewards build on their experiences, maintain relationships, progressively gain leadership skills, become positive change agents in their environments, and as teenagers serve as role models for younger children. As Stewards progress through the Cycle, Solar Youth becomes a safe, consistent, and loving part of each of our young people's often chaotic lives. As more than one of our youth has said, "Solar Youth is like my family." Since our founding, Solar Youth has served more than 2,000 individual youth, with the average youth participating in 3 to 4 season-long programs, and offered nearly 300 paid internships for New Haven teens. Participants have experienced hundreds of out-of-neighborhood explorations, and completed nearly 350 Community Service Action Projects (C-SAPs) and more than 220 Public Education Projects (PEPs). Today, Solar Youth serves approximately 450 youth annually.

Each Solar Youth program season features the following components:

Solar Youth hires and trains high school students as paid Interns. Youth Educator Interns lead programs with supervision from adult staff, gaining hands-on training and serving as role models for younger Stewards. Interns participate in training sessions for 2 to 3 weeks prior to each season and on Fridays during season. Trainings cover skill-building associated with being an environmental educator and mentor to younger children, job skills that will serve Interns well in any employment setting and personal development. During the season, Interns, with support from adult staff, develop and deliver lesson plans addressing a number of environmental themes and provide mentorship to Stewards.

Left: Senator Gary Holder-Winfield meeting with the Interns to discuss local government and policy. Right: Interns and educators celebrate a successful retreat with a bowling trip! Fall 2013

Below are examples of Intern trainings during the 2013-2014 school year: Trainings


Fall Retreat at Noble View Camp in Russell, MA Compassionate Communication First Aid and Safety Protocols

Interns spent two nights hiking by waterfalls, building new skills together, performing in a Solar Youth Idol, making a campfire (in the rain), and forged strong relationships! Every season, Interns learn NVC strategies based on observations, feelings, needs, and requests to effectively communicate. Interns learned that the prevention is better than the cure and focused on how to reduce risk and prevent injuries based on the Solar Youth Emergency Protocol.

Behavior Management

Financial Literacy

Group Facilitation Professionalism Mindfulness

Reflection, Debriefing and Processing College Preparedness Self-Expression

Career Day

Interns learned about what influences behavior and the steps to take to redirect harmful behavior as well as how to recognize helpful behavior. Part of every Intern training is a “loot camp” led by Start Community Bank on financial literacy. Interns learned how to open a bank account, save money and avoid bad credit. Interns were introduced to a framework based on “knowing, understanding, guiding, and debriefing” to facilitate groups. Interns participated in a workshop on resume writing, interview skills, and workplace etiquette. Interns practiced a number of breathing exercises and yoga poses and learned how Solar Youth is trying to implement more mindfulness practices within the organization. Interns participated in different reflection activities and learned the importance of debriefing activities. Interns participated in a workshop on the process of applying for college and also financing education. Interns were given the opportunity to write and share personal written pieces about overcoming obstacles and participated in some public speaking activities. During our Career Day, we invited individuals from different professions to speak to our interns on how they decided on their career and what steps they took to get there.

Throughout the course of any Solar Youth season, adult staff and Youth Educator Interns teach children ages 4 to 13 about ecology and the environment in their own communities through experiential lessons, games, arts and crafts and outdoor explorations. Each program covers a range of environmental issues in each season, drawing from an inventory of more than one hundred lesson plans that Solar Youth has accumulated from reputable sources like Food, Land and People, Project WILD and Project Learning Tree. Stewards learn about watersheds by visiting nearby streams, about wildlife by going animal tracking, and about biodiversity by hiking through a local park. And our curriculum aligns with Connecticut State standards for science learning and complements what youth are learning in the classroom at school.

Stewards also have the opportunity to go on several trips throughout the year to parks, beaches, museums and other destinations around Connecticut. Trips provide an opportunity for Stewards to not only experience the world outside of their neighborhoods, but also to better understand how systems in nature are interconnected and how their actions can impact the environment in a community far away from home. Here are a few examples of Solar Youth day trips on weekends and holidays during 2013-2014: Explorations


Pond Lily Nature Preserve

Solar Youth kicked off the fall season with a fun day of service and exploration at Pond Lily Preserve. Stewards teamed up with Whole Foods Market in Milford, New Haven Land Trust, and the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. Stewards enjoyed learning about the ecology of the pond and surrounding areas. Solar Youth followed up with a 3 mile hike on West Rock’s Blue Trail. Interns and students explored Judge’s Cave and other scenic views, then ended the day with parachute activities on the nearby baseball field.

West Rock Hike

Lyman Orchards

Beaver Pond

Ice Fishing

Tour at Southern Connecticut State University Maritime Aquarium Lighthouse Point Park Youth Summit

Rock to Rock

Youth met one of the Orchard Managers and learned all about the history of the Orchards. After touring the Orchard, youth had the opportunity to pick apples, get lost in the corn maze, and of course indulge in apple cider donuts! Overall it was a great trip! Solar Youth Stewards took time to explore the neighborhood of Newhallville, where many of them made their first swan sighting! Stewards walked along the Farmington Canal bike path and learned about its local ecology. Stewards learn to ice fish at an Ice Fishing workshop put on by C.A.R.E (CT Aquatic Resource and Education)! Stewards learned all about fishing licenses, regulations, how to dress when Ice Fishing, what tools to bring, how to catch fish, how to know if the ice is safe to walk on, general safety tips, and of course how to have fun on the ice!!!! Solar Youth Leaders in Training got to experience a day in the life of a college student as they went on a campus tour and observed classrooms at SCSU! Interns and Stewards had a blast exploring aquatic habitats and creatures at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk. Youth enjoyed tours and interactive games as they explored the exhibits. Youth explored the coastline and enjoyed smoothies from blenders powered by bicycling! Every year during spring break Solar Youth hosts a three-day Youth Summit!!! In 2014, the theme was Watersheds of New Haven! Day One was dedicated to games and lessons on the water cycle. On Day Two, Stewards learned about important watersheds in New Haven. One the third day, stewards explored various conservation strategies! Sixteen Stewards and Interns biked in the Rock to Rock Earth Day Ride with hundreds of others. The route criss-crossed New Haven from West Rock to East Rock with stops at several city parks!

After exploring, youth identify local environmental issues that affect the health of people and the natural environment, and then seek solutions to these problems through a nine-step (five steps for the 4 to 8 year olds) process of problem-solving and youth-led action called the C-SAP (Community Service Action Project) Cycle. The steps include: (1) explore community; (2) identify problems; (3) choose a problem; (4) research the problem; (5) brainstorm solutions; (6) choose a solution; (7) develop action plan; (8) take action; and (9) evaluate. Community Service Action Projects (C-SAPs) may include direct action (e.g. a park, community or river clean-up), education (e.g. an anti-litter campaign or pollution prevention), or citizenship (e.g. letter-writing or visits to public officials). Recent examples of C-SAPs include tree and flower plantings; litter pick-ups; fundraisers and projects to benefit other charities; traffic safety campaigns; and trail-clearing and bridge-building. Youth are the leaders in all aspects of the projects, and learn first-hand how to be agents of positive change in their communities. Engaging in the C-SAP Cycle allows youth to hone their problem-solving skills, cultivates in them an identity as agents of positive change and makes their community a healthier and more beautiful place to live! Here are a few examples of C-SAPs in 2013-2014: Program Name




Steward Teams2014Spring Barnard

Stewards wanted to build a sense of community in the Edgewood/West River neighborhood. They decided to craft community friendship bracelets to unify their neighbors. Youth noticed there were too many homeless animals in their community with nowhere to go in the Winter and were malnourished. They decided they wanted to make temporary animal shelters. Some of the LIT as well as some educators have lost loved ones to breast cancer. Youth decided on a bake sale to raise money to be donated to a recovery program.

Over 80 bracelets were made with messages like: “Edgewood SY,” “Family,” and “Safety.” 40 Bracelets were delivered Two homemade stations designed to help stray animals stay warm during the Winter.

Youth enjoyed meeting and talking with the neighbors and residents appreciated the thoughtful effort!

Youth raised $50 from baked goods all of which was donated to a local Breast Cancer program. Planted 16 flowers, picked up 12 bags of leaf debris, and 1 bag of trash

Youth were proud that they were able to contribute to the Breast Cancer program at Smilow Cancer Hospital .

Citycology2013-Fall-West Hills

Leaders in Training-2014Spring Westville Manor CItycology2014-SpringNewhallville

Youth noticed that area surrounding St. Andrews church wasn’t maintained well. Stewards beautified the front of the church by weeding and planting flowers.

Youth were able to connect something they care about to an empowering resolution.

Youth took ownership over beautifying the space and learned valuable gardening skills.

Citycology2013-FallWestville Manor

Steward Team2013-Fall-West Hills

Youth were concerned with increasing levels of street violence in Westville Manor. Youth thought that stronger community relations would prevent violence among neighbors. Stewards noticed that many members of their community didn’t have access to healthy foods. Youth made sandwiches for each of their neighbors and distributed them along with nutritional facts.

20 friendship bracelets and 50 bookmarks on anger management distributed

Youth learned about the importance of self-control and communication in building connections with community members.

47 sandwiches made, 13 families served

Youth gained greater understanding of healthy eating and the importance of providing the body with healthy foods.

Following completion of C-SAPs, youth then design and present Public Education Projects (PEPs) that teach others about what they have learned and accomplished over the course of the season. Performing PEPs reinforces the knowledge Stewards gain over the course of the season as they interpret it for themselves in order to teach others. PEPs also provide an opportunity for Stewards to play a role as an authority on a particular issue and be recognized by the community for doing good work. Examples include making posters to hang at their schools on the importance of recycling; creating postcards to discourage people from littering that they distribute in their neighborhoods; writing skits and songs to perform in public; and developing PSAs that are uploaded onto Solar Youth’s YouTube channel. At the conclusion of each season, all Stewards convene in a public setting to celebrate their accomplishments and present their PEPs to family, friends and community members at a Public Education Forum. Program Name




Leaders in Training-2014SpringWestville Manor

Pond Lily Nature Preserve has undergone several clean-ups, but most New Haven neighborhoods are unaware of efforts to reverse its pollution.

Postcards were placed in every mailbox on two streets in the West Hills neighborhood.

Youth were able to share what they learned about pollution with people in their communities.

Citycology2014-SpringNewhallville Steward Team2014SpringWestville Manor

Citycology2013-Fall-West Hills

Steward Teams2014-SpringBarnard

Youth noticed a high prevalence of violence and littering in their neighborhood. To raise awareness on the level of pollution in New Haven’s rivers and Long Island Sound, Interns and LIT taught the hands-on Fred the Fish activity at the Westville ArtWalk. Youth wanted to educate participants at the Public Education Forum on how to rescue stray cats in the community. Youth gave personal testimonies about their experiences as first-time Solar Youth participants.

Youth designed 3 posters advocating against physical violence and littering. Youth performed the Fred the Fish activity 4 times without the assistance of adult educators.

Youth made one interactive poster to display and handed out informational flyers to participants Each student prepared one written piece to share at the Public Educator Forum.

Youth took ownership of these issues and pride in the visual art they created. With each presentation, youth became more confident in their teaching skills. Audiences are enjoyed the message. Presenting at the PEF reinforced what youth learned from their service project. PEF attendees appreciated Stewards’ personal statements and the students came away with greater understanding of the PEF!

Solar Youth measures its programs with a combination of evaluation tools, including Pre/Post surveys, Portfolios (evidence and examples of youth community service and public education work), Youth Feedback Forms, Family Feedback Forms, Community Feedback Forms and the recording of stories of our Stewards over time and continued connection with Solar Youth alumni. Feedback forms are based on best-practice evaluation tools developed by the Search Institute. Our pre/post survey, which measures ecological literacy, aligns with Connecticut State standards for science learning. Program staff input relevant data into our customized Salesforce database throughout and directly after each season and results are made public twice a year in Program Outcome Reports, which are available on our website. Success is achieved when we have met benchmarks and seen improvements in each of the three measurement areas of the Results Based Accountability (RBA) framework: the quantity of programming we provide (youth enrolled in our programs, interns hired and trained, full-day adventures, C-SAPs and PEPs, program hours, etc.); the quality of programming we provide (attendance rates, enrollment retention rates, and youth and parent satisfaction); and the impact we have on a seasonal and long-term basis.

Fall 2013 - Spring 2014 Hours of program offered Teenage youth hired Hours of Intern training/ Total stipends paid to Interns Total youth served (unique count) Out-of-Neighborhood Adventure Trips Youth-led Community Service Action Projects Youth-led Public Education Projects

74 35 84/$29,400 461 121 21

Female Male African-American

49% 51% 79%

Latino/a Other

10% 11%


Enrollment by Program Citycology Fall Winter Spring Total


Steward Teams 51

39 81

53 104

Service /Adventure 20 36 56


6 6




132 36 114 282

16 35

*Does not include HOLA, Solar Youth’s in-school program for 220 2nd through 5th graders at Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School **Many youth enrolled in programs in multiple seasons

Quality Assurance

I would recommend Solar Youth to my friends/other parents I would like to (see my child) attend Solar Youth next season

% of Stewards who agreed

% of parents who agreed

89% 92%

96% 100%

Retention % of Stewards/Interns who returned from previous years *number for 2013 calendar year


Number of years in Solar Youth (of 255 unique youth served in out-of-school programs in 2013)

50 40 30 20 10 0 2+ years

3+ years

4+ years

CATEGORY n for Stewards = 129 / n for parents = 91??

Youth Development Outcomes “ Because of Solar Youth…” Empowerment ● ...the community values Solar Youth Stewards ● ...Stewards plays useful roles in the community Commitment to Learning ● ... Steward is actively engaged in learning ● ... Steward wants to do well in school Positive Values ● ... Steward places a high value on helping others ● ... Steward is more accountable for his/her actions Social Competencies ● ... Steward’s planning and decision making skills have improved ● ... Steward has learned to be a better friend ● ... Steward is more sensitive to the feelings of others Environmental Outcomes ● ...Steward’s knowledge about the environment improved ● ...Steward is more responsible about the effect he/she has on the environment

5+ years

% of Stewards who agreed

% of parents who agreed

73% 83%

86% 84%

99% 99%

96% 96%

91% 92%

94% 94%



82% 86%

96% 94%





Steward Pre/Post Surveys Number of Stewards who took pre/post surveys = 32

Level of Improvement

Leadership Change

Environmental Change

10% or greater 20% or greater 50% or greater







Intern Feedback Number of Interns who submitted feedback surveys = 29 CATEGORY


Youth Educator Skills Outcomes “Participation in Solar Youth…” ● ● ● ● ●

Prepared me to use a lesson plan to deliver lessons through experiential (handson) education. Prepared me to practice positive behavior management. Helped me to develop skills as a group facilitator. Prepared me to implement activities that involve multiple intelligences. Helped me to attain greater knowledge of principles of environmental education.

83% 97% 97% 97% 90%

Employability Skills Outcomes “After being an intern in Solar Youth…” ● ● ● ● ● ●

I feel that my timeliness has improved. My preparation skills have improved. My public speaking skills have improved. My personal financial management skills have improved. My work ethic has improved. My commitment to excellence has improved.

93% 97% 90% 79% 90% 79%

Long Term Outcomes “My overall experience with Solar Youth, both this season and in the past, has… ● ● ● ● ● ●

Prepared me for future employment. Encouraged me to continue my education. Encouraged me to live a healthier lifestyle. Motivated me to seek out opportunities to help my community. Helped me to develop a more positive sense of self. Taught me to consider the impact of my actions on the health of the environment.

93% 100% 90% 97% 86% 100%

From Parents/Guardians “She is really trying to be more of a leader because she wants to join the LIT program.” “My daughter shows more responsibility and care more about her community.” “Of all the year’s he’s been with Solar Youth, this is the most responsible and mature he’s been.”

“Solar Youth motivated her to overcome her shyness. She is more open and willing to show others what she learned.” “He is more focused in school because of the skills he developed from Solar Youth.” “I feel the Solar Youth program should be in every town and state!”

From Stewards “Because of Solar Youth, I know more about the environment, I can solve problems, and I know how to be a better friend.” “I learned that being healthy is the most important aspect of life.”

“With Solar Youth, I had the power to help my community.” “I am more respectful to the earth and I can help to save pollutions”

From Interns “I learned that it’s important to build strong and healthy friendships with youth to gain their trust and respect.” “I am more prepared for life after high school after learning how to save money and build employability skills.”

“Solar Youth has taught me about financial literacy and college preparation.”

“I learned that being more vocal and engaged in the things you do can make the experience better.”

“I have gained communication skills and have a better understanding of the financial world.” “Working at Solar Youth was a fun experience and I can honestly say I learned a lot about myself and others.”

To learn more about Solar Youth, visit

Solar Youth Program Outcome Report: 2013-2014 School Year  

Highlights, activities and outcomes from Solar Youth's 2013-2014 school-year programs

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