Green City Force Bringing Youth and Jobs Together

Lisbeth Shepherd

Lisbeth Shepherd is being honored as a Youth Jobs+ Champion of Change for her innovative work to develop the discipline and skills associated with employment for our country’s youth.  

I believe in the boundless potential of young people. I believe that we need the energy, ideas, and talents of young adults from low-income communities of color as workers and leaders in building an inclusive, sustainable economy.  I believe national service is an ideal vehicle through which to engage unemployed or underemployed young adults from these communities in addressing critical climate action goals while gaining skills and vision to get on a path to family-supporting work.

With these principles in mind, I founded Green City Force in 2009.  GCF’s Clean Energy Corps combines national service, workforce development, and academics to propel young public housing residents to success in employment or college.  We are national model for the Clean Energy Service Corps, created through the Serve America Act of 2009.

GCF creates training opportunities through services related to high-growth fields with entry-level opportunities accessible to young adults without advanced degrees. We have a unique, multi-faceted partnership with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). With our partners, we build urban farms, engage public housing residents in building-to-building challenges to reduce energy and water consumption, expand green space, and help families affected by Hurricane Sandy. In our program, technical skills training in energy efficiency and urban agriculture are combined with transferable skills (outreach, data collection, interpersonal skills) to boost competitiveness and expand options for graduates. Corps Members help advance the goals of PlaNYC, the city’s climate action plan, and the public housing authority’s NYCHA Green Agenda goals. GCF helps them leverage these experiences to connect with employment or with school, and engages graduates in an ongoing community. Our graduates are energy auditors, food educators, landscapers, college students, and active community members.  

This is a unique moment in our country.  “Opportunity youth” like Shella Hair, a 24-year old from the Bronx, and Sha-kim Johnson, a 19-year old from Coney Island, have the energy and ideas to move our country forward. Addressing climate issues in measurable, innovative ways is urgent. Creating a ladder to opportunity for young adults who have achieved a high school diploma or GED but lack a viable next step is an imperative.  At Green City Force, we're connecting these dots. It's time to expand national service as a platform for opportunity, pillar for resiliency and sustainable community development, and preferred pipeline for employers to create good jobs for youth across the country. 

Lisbeth Shepherd is a serial social entrepreneur dedicated to creating opportunity for young adults through national service. A 1993 Echoing Green Fellow, Lisbeth founded the leading national service organization in France that inspired the Service Civique for 75,000 young people in France: Unis-Cité. 

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