Providing NYC Youth with the Tools to Become Leaders in the Sustainability Movement

By Solar One

There is no doubt that one of the populations most severely impacted by Covid-19 is teenagers. Deprived of the normal social experiences, milestones and opportunities that most of us took for granted at that age, and with so much uncertainty about the future, it seems now more than ever, young people need a clear path forward, one that can inspire them with hope about the world they will inherit.

Even before the pandemic, today’s youth were making it known worldwide that they have grave concerns about the climate, and for good reason. Here in NYC, many students live in neighborhoods that have long experienced environmental racism, resulting in food deserts, higher asthma rates and unequal burdens from waste management facilities, transportation infrastructure, illegal dumping, and a plethora of other industrial aftereffects that aren’t found in more affluent communities.

In response, Solar One, a New York City based nonprofit, is providing young people with the tools to be part of the solution for preserving our planet. In December 2021, Solar One launched CareerSTEP (Skills, Training, Experience, Power), a work-based learning, career readiness pathway within their Green Design Lab™ K-12 environmental STEM education program. CareerSTEP offers students an opportunity to explore a wide range of sustainability career options, while receiving mentoring from Solar One educators and professionals in their chosen area of interest. CareerSTEP also features inspiring guest speakers from a variety of sustainability career sectors who share their professional journey and detail what it is like to work in their field. Participants are paid hourly for this unique work-based learning program, which increases accessibility. The program culminates in placements in related industry internships starting in Summer 2022.

CareerSTEP is particularly crucial at this time when major investments in the clean energy economy and climate resiliency at the Federal, State, and City level are transforming NYC into a city on the cutting edge of sustainability. With the passing of the New York City Climate Mobilization Act in 2019, Solar One expects the number of clean energy jobs to continue to grow. The Mayor’s Office has even projected there will be 26,700 new jobs in this sector by 2030. Building a green workforce is a critical move towards realizing this vision.

As New York continues to advance its ambitious and historic climate agenda, CareerSTEP highlights the sustainability careers most in-demand in NYC. Some of the sectors that youth will focus on include: Renewable Energy and Green Buildings, Art and Design, Urban Agriculture and Food Justice, Urban Planning, Climate Science, Climate Communications, and Advocacy and Policy.

Students get both hard and soft skills training related to their career interest, which might include story mapping, data visualization, professional communication, presentation skills and slidedeck design, and public outreach strategies. They also plan and design a capstone project to sharpen those skills and bring them beyond theoretical understanding into real-world application. Having the ability to try out what they are learning will help students be better prepared for the projects they’ll be working on during their summer internships.

To make sure their own communities aren’t left out, participating teens design and implement a project based on a community needs assessment, where they will choose a neighborhood to focus on and then collect data from community members on what they feel needs improvement. These projects encourage and build proficiency in data analysis in addition to collaborative work habits. Once they’ve completed their research, students create a presentation for the larger group, explaining their findings and recommendations.

CareerSTEP aims to connect career opportunities to students and equip them with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to thrive and be leaders in the sustainability movement in New York City.

What better way to invest in a sustainable future than by investing in young people’s future prospects, helping them to gain the perspective they will need to address one of humanity’s most urgent concerns: climate change.


Solar One is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to design and deliver innovative education, training, and technical assistance that fosters sustainability and resiliency in diverse urban environments. We empower learning that changes the way people think about energy, sustainability, and resilience by engaging and educating a diverse set of stakeholders and beneficiaries. Our programs help individuals and communities explore new ways of living and working that are more adaptive to a changing world. The official IRS 501c3 designation is CEC Stuyvesant Cove, Inc.